Skip to main content

Full text of "Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount"

See other formats

0^ w p«/*../^. 









Translated by Charles A. Hay, D. D. 


Copyright, 1892, 




The forty-third volume of the Erlangen edition 
of Luther's works contains his exposition of the 
^'' Sermon on the Mount y Dr. Irmischer, the ed- 
itor of this edition, prefaces the volume with these 
remarks : 

" During Bugenhagen's absence Luther preached 
a I'ong while for him, regularly, on the fifth, sixth 
and seventh chapters of Matthew, beginning Nov. 
9, 1530. These sermons were then published, first 
in 1532, at Wittenberg, under Joseph Klug, in 
quarto ; in 1533 at Marburg, in octavo ; and in 
1539, again in Wittenberg, in quarto, under Johann 
Weiss. In 1533 they were also translated into 
Latin by Vincent Obsopoeus." 

In this Irmischer edition these sermons are 
thrown into the form of a running commentary, 
and as such they are now presented to the English 
reading public by the Lutheran Publication So- 

When requested by a committee of this Board to 
translate this work, I called attention to the pecu- 
liar roughness and even fierceness of Luther's way 


iv translator's preface. 

of expressing hiinself and of denouncing the min- 
ions of the papacy. But the committee judged it 
best that Luther should be allowed to speak for 
himself, presuming that intelligent English readers 
will make due allowance for the style of speech 
common in that day, and for the peculiarly aggra- 
vating circumstances under which that noble man 
of God was called to labor. An admirable vindi- 
cation of these "Asperities" appeared in the ninth 
volume of our excellent Quarterly Review, in 
1881 ; it is from the pen of Rev. Dr. Morris, one 
of Luther's most enthusiastic admirers. 

Charles A. Hay. 
Gettysburg^ Feb. 11^ i8g2. 


I AM truly glad that my exposition of the three 
chapters of St. Matthew, which St. Augustine 
calls the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, are about to 
be published, hoping that by the grace of God it 
may help to preserve and maintain the true, sure 
and Christian understanding of this teaching of 
Christ, because these sayings and texts are so very 
common and so often used throughout all Christen- 
dom. For I do not doubt that I have herein pre- 
sented to my friends, and all others who care for 
these things, the true, pure Christian meaning of 
the same. 

And it is hard to understand how the very devil 
himself has by his apostles so cunningly twisted 
and perverted especially the fifth chapter, as to 
make it teach the very opposite of what it means. 
And though Christ purposely intended thereby to 
antagonize all false teaching, and to exhibit the 
true meaning of God's commands, as he expressly 
says: "I am not come to destroy the law;" and takes -^ 
it up piece by piece to make it perfectly clear ; yet 



the infernal Satan has not found a single text in 
the Scriptures which he has more shamefully per- 
verted, and made more error and false doctrine out 
of, than just this one which was by Christ himself 
ordered and appointed to neutralize false doctrine. 
This we may call a masterpiece of the devil. 

First of all there have fallen upon this chapter 
the vulgar hogs and asses, jurists and sophists, the 
right hand of the pope and his Mamelukes. They 
have sucked this poison out of this beautiful rose, 
and scattered it everywhere ; they have covered 
up Christ with it and have exalted and main- 
tained the antichrist, namely, that Christ here does 
not wis"h everything which he teaches in the fifth 
chapter to be regarded by his Christians as com- 
manded and to be observed by them ; but that 
much of it was given merely as advice to such 
as wish to become perfect, and any who wish 
may observe these parts ; despite the fact that 
Christ there threatens wrathfuUy : — no one shall 
enter heaven who sets aside one of the least of 
these commands, — and he calls them in plain words 

Thus they have invented twelve gospel counsels 
[consilia evangelii], twelve items of good counsel 
in the gospel, which one may heed if he yvants to 
be something over and above other Christians 
(higher and more perfect); they have thus made 
not only Christian salvation, yes even perfection 


also, dependent aside from faith upon works, but 
they have 'made these same works voluntary. 
That is, as I understand it, to forbid really and 
truly good works, which is just what these nasty 
revilers accuse us of doing. For they cannot 
deny this, and no covering and smoothing over 
will help them as long as this fifth chapter of 
Matthew abides. For their books and glosses are 
at hand, along with their former and present daily 
impenitent life that they lead in accordance with 
this their teaching. And the teaching of those 
twelve "evangelical counsels" is very common 
among them, viz., not to requi^-e wrong doing, not 
to take vengeance, to offer the other cheek, not to 
resist evil, to give the cloak along with the coat, 
to go two miles for one, to give to every one that 
asks, to lend to him who borrows, to pray for 
persecutors, to love enemies, to do good to them 
that hate, etc., as Christ here teaches. All this 
(they disgustingly say) is not commanded, and the 
monks at Paris honestly assign their reasons, saying, 
this Christian teaching would be much too hard if 
it were loaded with such commands as these, etc. 
This is the way the jurists and sophists have 
hitherto ruled and taught the church, so that 
Christ with his teaching and interpretation, has 
had to be their fool and juggler; and they still 
show no signs of repentance for this, but are eager 
to defend it, and to put forward again their cursed 


shabby canons, and to crown again their cunning 
pope. God grant, however, that I may live and 
may have to give clasps and jewels for this crown; 
then he, God willing, shall be called rightly 

Therefore, dear brother, if you please, and have 
nothing better, let this my preaching serve you, in 
the first place, against our squires, the jurists and 
sophists, I mean especially the canonists, whom 
they themselves indeed call asses, and such they 
really are, so that you may keep the teaching of 
Christ for yourself pure in this place of Matthew, 
instead of their ass's cunning and devil's dunof. 

In the second place also against the new jurists 
and sophists, namely, the factious spirits and Ana- 
baptists, who in their crazy fashion are making 
new trouble out of this fifth chapter. And just as 
the others go too much to the left in holding noth- 
ing at all of this teaching of Christ, but have con- 
demned and obliterated it, so do these lean too 
much to the right, and teach that one should have 
nothing of his own, should not swear, should not 
act as ruler or judge, should not protect or defend, 
should forsake wife and child, and ifiuch of such 
miserable stuff. 

So completely does the devil mix things up on 
both sides, that they know no difference between an 
earthly and a heavenly kingdom, much less what 
is to be taught and to be done differently in each 


kingdom; but we, God be thanked, can boast that 
we in these sermons have clearly and diligently 
shown and exhibited it, so that whoever hereafter 
errs, or will err, we are freed from all responsibility 
on his account, having faithfully presented our 
opinion for the benefit of all. Let their blood be 
upon their own head; our reward for this we await, 
namely, ingratitude, hatred, and all sorts of hos- 
tility, and we say deo gr alias. 

Since we then learn and know by such abomin- 
able examples, of both papistic and factious jurists, 
what the devil is aiming at, and especially how he 
seeks to pervert this fifth chapter of St. Matthew 
and thereby to exterminate the pure Christian 
doctrine, every preacher or rector is entreated and 
exhorted to watch faithfully and diligently against 
it in the little charge committed to him, and help 
to preserve the true interpretation of this text. 
For, as long as the devil lives and the world abides, 
he will not cease to attack this chapter. For his 
object is thereby to entirely suppress good works, 
as has been done in the papacy; or to instigate 
false good works and a feigned holiness, as he has 
now begun to do through the new monks and the 
factious spirits. 

And even if both the popish and the mobocratic 
jurists and the monks were to perish, he would 
still find or raise up others. For he must have 
such followers, and his kinsfdom has been governed 


by monks ever since the world began. Although 
they have not been called monks, yet their doctrine 
and life have been monkish, that is, they have been 
other than and peculiar or better than what God 
has commanded; as among the people of Israel 
were the Baalites, the idolatrous priests (camarim) 
and such like, and among the heathen the castrated 
priests (Galli) and the vestal virgins. 

Therefore we can never be safe against him. 
For from this fifth chapter have come the pope's 
monks, who claim to be a perfect class, in advance 
of other Christians, basing their claim upon this 
chapter; and yet we have shown that they are full 
of avarice, of arrogance, and of late full of all sorts 
of devils. Christ, our dear Lord and Master, who 
has opened up to us the true meaning, desires to 
give it additional force for us, and besides to help 
us live and act accordingly. To whom be grate- 
ful praise, together with the Father and the Holy 
Spirit forever, Amen. 


The Fifth Chapter of St. Matthew- 

Verses i and 2 














14 aud 15 no 


17 • 




23 and 24 142 

25 and 26 147 

27 to 30 150 

31 and 32 165 

33 to 37 , .... 176 

38 to 41 186 




Verses 42 204 

" 43 to 48 209 

The Sixth Chapter of St. Matthew — 

Verses i to 4 228 

.5 and 6 240 

7 to 13 247 

14 and 15 258 

16 to 18 269 

19 to 21 287 

22 and 23 305 

24 321 

25 332 

26 and 27 338 

28 to 30 343 

31 and 32 346 

33 348 

34 358 

The Seventh Chapter ok St. Matthew — 

Verses i and 2 362 

3 to 5 377 

6 384 

7 to II 393 

12 405 

13 and 14 415 

15 .427 

16 to 20 447 

21 462 

22 and 23 465 

24 to 27 483 

28 and 29 489 





V. I, 2. And seeing the multitudes, he went up i?tto a tnoun- 
tain : and when he was set, his disciples came tmto him : and 
he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying : 

Here the evangelist with a formal stately pre- 
face declares how Christ disposed himself for the 
sermon he was about to deliver ; that he went upon 
a mountain, and sat down, and opened his mouth ; 
so that we see he was in earnest. These are the 
three things, it is commonly said, that mark a good 
preacher ; first, that he take his place ; secondly, 
that he open his mouth and say something ; thirdly, 
that he know when to stop. 

To take his place, that means that he assume a 
position as a master or preacher, who can and ought 
to do it, as one called for this purpose and not com- 
ing of his own accord, but to whom it is a matter 



of duty and obedience; so that he may say: "I 
come, not hurried hither by my own purpose and 
preference, but I must do it, by virtue of my of- 

This is said as against those who have hereto- 
fore been causing us so much vexation and tribu- 
lation, and indeed are still doing it, namely the 
factious spirits and fanatics, that are running up 
and down through the country, poisoning the peo- 
ple, before the pastors or those in office and au- 
thority find it out, and thus befoul one family after 
another until they have poisoned a whole city, and 
from the city a whole country. To guard against 
such sneaking renegades one ought not to allow 
any one to preach who has not been duly and 
officially appointed ; also no one should venture, 
though he should be a preacher, if he hears a lying 
preacher in a popish or other church, who is mis- 
leading the people, to preach against him ; nor 
should any one go about into the houses and get 
up private preachings, but he should remain at 
home and mind his own official business, or keep 
silent, if he neither will or can publicly take his 
place in the pulpit. 

For God does not want us to go wandering about 
with his word, as though we were impelled by the 
Holy Spirit and had to preach, and thus were 
seeking preaching places and corners, houses or 
pulpits, where we are not officially called. For 


even St. Paul himself, though called as an apostle 
by God, did not want to preach in those places 
where the other apostles had preached before. 
Therefore we are here told that Christ boldly and 
publicly goes up upon the mountain, when he be- 
gins his official ministry, and soon afterwards says 
to his disciples: "Ye are the light of the world;" 
and: "Neither do men light a candle and put it 
under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth 
light to all that are in the house." For the office 
of the ministry and the word of God are hence to 
shine as the sun, and not go sneaking and plot- 
ting in the dark, as in the play of blind-man's 
buff; but all must be done in broad daylight, that 
it may be clearly seen that both preacher and 
hearer are sure of this, that the teaching is rightly 
done, and that the office has been rightly con- 
ferred, so that there is no need for concealment. 
Do thou likewise. If you are in office, and are 
commissioned to preach, take your place openly 
and fear nobody, that you may glory with Christ: 
" I spake openly to the world, * * in secret have I 
said nothing." John xviii. 20. 

But 3-ou say, "How? Is no one then to teach 
anything except in public? Or is the head of a 
family not to teach his servants in his house, or to 
have a scholar or some one about him who recites 
to him?" Answer: Certainly, that is all right, 
and all just in place. For every head of a family 


is in duty bound to teach his children and servants, 
or to have them taught. For he is in his house as 
a pastor or bishop over his household, and he is 
commanded to take heed what they learn, and he 
is responsible for them. But it is all wrong for 
you to do this away from your own house, and to 
force yourself into other houses or to neighbors, 
and you should not allow any such sneak to come 
to you and to carry on special preaching in your 
house for which he has no authorization. But if 
any one comes into a house or city let him be 
asked for the evidence that he is known, or let him 
show by letter and seal that he has been duly au- 
thorized. For one must not trust all the strag- 
glers that boast of having the Holy Spirit, and in- 
sinuate themselves thereby here and there into the 
homes. In short, it means that the gospel, or the 
preaching of it, should not be heard in a corner, 
but up upon a mountain, and openly in the free 
daylight. That is one thing that Matthew wants 
to show here. 

The next thing is that he opens his mouth. 
That belongs (as above said) also to a preacher, 
that he do not keep his mouth shut, and not only 
publicly perform his official duty so that every one 
must keep silence and let him take his proper 
place as one who is divinely authorized and com- 
manded, but also that he briskly and confidently 
open his mouth, that is, to preach the truth and 


what has been coimnitted to hiin; that he be not 
silent or merely mumble, but bear witness, fearless 
and unterrified, and speak the truth out frankly, 
without regarding or sparing any one, no matter 
who or what is struck by it. 

For that hinders a preacher very much if he 
looks about him and concerns himself as to what 
the people do or do not like to hear, or what might 
occasion for him disfavor, harm or danger; but as 
he stands high up, upon a mountain, in a public 
place, and looks freely all around him, so he is also 
to speak freely and fear nobody, although he sees 
many sorts of people, and to hold no leaf before his 
mouth, nor to regard either gracious or wrathful 
lords and squires, either money, riches, honor, 
power, or disgrace, poverty or injury, and not to 
think of anything further than that he may speak 
what his office requires, even that for which he 
stands where he does. 

For Christ did not institute and appoint the 
office of the ministry that it might serve to gain 
money, possession, favor, honor, friendship, or that 
one may seek his own advantage through it, but 
that one should openly, freely proclaim the truth, 
rebuke evil, and publish what belongs to the ad- 
vantage, safety and salvation of souls. For the 
word of God is not here for the purpose of teaching 
how a maid or man servant is to work in Ihe house 
and earn his or her bread, or how a 'burgomaster is 



to rule, a fanner to plough or make hay. In short, 
it neither gives nor shows temporal good things by 
which one maintains this life, for reason has al- 
ready taught all this to every one; but its purpose 
is to teach how we are to attain to tJiat life, and it 
teaches thee to use the present life, and to nourish 
the belly here as long as it lasts; yet, so that thou 
mayest know where thou art to abide and live 
when this must come to an end. 

If now the time comes for preaching of another 
life that we are to be concerned about, and for the 
sake of which we are not to regard this one as if 
we wanted to remain here forever, then contention 
and strife begin, so that the world will not endure 
it. If then a preacher cares more for his belly and 
worldly living, he does not do his duty; he stands 
up indeed and babbles in the pulpit, but he does 
not preach the truth, does not really open his 
mouth; if there seems to be trouble ahead he keeps 
quiet and avoids hitting anybody. Observe, this is 
why Matthew prefaces his account with the state- 
ment that Christ, as a true preacher, ascends the 
mountain and cheerfully opens his mouth, teaches 
the truth, and rebukes both false teaching and liv- 
ing, as we shall hear in what follows. 

V. 3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdon 
of heaven. 

{ This is a delightful, sweet and genial beginning 



of his sermon. For he does not come, like '. uses 
or a teacher of law, with alarming and threatening 
demands; but in the most friendly manner, with 
enticements and allurements and pleasant promises. 
And indeed, if it had not been thus recorded, and 
if the first uttered precious words of the Lord 
Christ had not been given to us all, an over-curious 
spirit would tempt and impel everybody to run 
after them even to Jerusalem, yes, to the end of the 
world, if one might hear but a word of it all. 
Then thf re would be plenty of money forthcoming 
to build a good road, and every one would boast- 
ingly glory how he had heard or read the very 
words that the Lord Christ had spoken. O what a 
wonderfully happy man would he be held to be 
who should succeed in this! That is just the way 
it surely would be if we had none of our Saviour's 
words written, although much might have been 
written by others; and every one would say: Yes, 
I hear indeed what St. Paul and his other apostles 
have taught, but I would much rather hear what 
he himself said and preached. But now that it is 
so common, that every one has it written in a book, 
and can read it daily, nobody regards it as some- 
thing special and precious. Yes, we grow tired of 
them and neglect them, just as if not the high 
Majesty of heaven, but some cobbler, had uttered 
them. Therefore we are duly punished for our 
ingratitude and contemptuous treatment of these 


woi Is by getting little enough from them, and 
never feeling or tasting what a treasure, force and 
power there is in the words of Christ. ', But he who 
has grace only to recognize them as the words of 
God and not of man, will surely reg^ard them as 
higher and more precious, and never grow tired or 
weary of them. 

Kindly and sweet as this sermon is for Christians, 
who are our Lord's disciples, just so vexatious and 
intolerable is it for the Jews and their great saints. 
For he hits them a hard blow in the v -ry begin- 
ning with these words, rejects and conde nns their 
doctrine and preaches the direct contrary ; yes, he 
denounces woe against their way of living and 
teaching, as is shown in the sixth chapter o^ Luke. 
For the substance of their teaching was this : If it 
goes well with a man here upon earth, he is happy 
and well off; that was all they aimed at, that God 
should give them enough upon earth, if they were 
pious and served him ; as David says of them in 
Psalm cxliv : "Our garners are full, affording all 
manner of store ; our sheep bring forth thousands 
and ten thousands in our streets ; our oxen are 
strong to labor ; there is no breaking in or going 
out; there is no complaining in our streets." 
These they call happy people, etc. 

Against all this Christ opens his mouth and says 
there is something else needed than having enough 
here upon earth ; as if to say : You dear disciples. 


if you come to preach among the people, you will 
find that they all teach and believe thus : He who 
is rich, powerful, etc., is altogether happy; and 
again, he who is poor and miserable is rejected and 
condemned before God. For the Jews were firmly 
fixed in this belief: if it went well with a man, 
that was a proof that God was gracious to him ; 
and the reverse. This is explained by the fact that 
they had many and great promises from God of 
temporal and bodily good things that he would be- 
stow UDon the pious. They relied upon these, and 
supposed that if they had this they were well off. 
This is the theory that underlies the book of Job. 
For in regard to this his friends dispute with and 
contend against him, and insist strongly upon it 
that he must have knowingly committed some 
great crime against God, that he was so severely 
punished. Therefore he ought to confess it, be , 
converted and become pious, then God would take 
away the punishment again from him, etc. 

Therefore it was needful that his sermon should 
begin with overturning this false notion and tear- 
ing it out of their hearts, as one of the greatest 
hindrances to faith, that strengthens the real idol 
mammon in the heart. For nothing else could 
follow this teaching than that the people would 
become avaricious, and every one would care only 
for having plenty and a good time, without want 
and discomfort ; and every one would have to in- 

22 Luther's commentary on the 

fer : If he is happy who succeeds and has plenty, . 
must see to it that I am not left in the lurch. 

This is still to-day the common belief of the 
world, especially of the Turks, who completely and 
thoroughly rely upon it, and thence conclude that 
it would not be possible that they should have so 
much success and victory if they were not the peo- 
ple of God and he were not gracious towards them 
above all others. Among ourselves also the whole 
papacy believes the same thing, and their teaching 
and life are based upon the fact that they only have 
enough and besides have secured for themselves all 
manner of worldly property ; as everybody can see. 
In short, this is the greatest and most widely dif- 
fused belief or religion upon earth, whereupon all 
men of mere flesh and blood rely, and they cannot 
count anything else as happiness. 

Therefore he here preaches an altogether differ- 
ent new sermon for Christians, viz. that if it does 
not go well with them, if they suffer poverty and 
have to do without riches, power, honor and a good 
time, they are still to be happy and not to have a 
temporal, but a different, an eternal reward; that 
they have enough in the kingdom of heaven. 

Do you now say: How, must Christians then all 
be poor, and dare no one have money, property, 
honor, power, etc.? Or, what are the rich, as 
princes, lords, kings, to do? Must they give up 
all their property, honor, etc., or buy the kingdom 


of Iieaven from the poor, as some have taught? 
No; it is not said that we are to buy from the poor, 
but we are to be ourselves poor and be found 
among those poor, if we are to have the kingdom 
of heaven. For it is said plainly and bluntly: 
Blessed are the poor; and yet there is another little 
word along with that, viz. spiritually poor, so that 
nothing is accomplished by any one's being bodily 
poor, and having no money and property. For, 
outwardly to have money, property and people, is 
not of itself wrong, but it is God's gift and arrange- 
ment. No one is blessed, therefore, because he is " 
a beggar and has nowhere anything of his own; , 
but the expression is, spiritually poor. For I said \ 
already in the beginning that Christ is here not at | 
all treating of secular government and order, but ii 
is speaking only of what is spiritual — how one / 
aside from and over and above that which is out- j 
ward is to live before God. 

It belongs to secular government that one should 
have money, property, honor,- power, land and 
people, and without these it could not exist, j 
Therefore a lord or prince must and cannot be / 
poor; for he must have all sorts of possessions \ 
suited to his office and rank. Therefore it is not / 
meant that one must be poor and have nothing at / 
all of his own. For the world could not exist in , 
such a way that we should all be beggars and have \ 
nothing. For no head of a family could maintain / 


his family and servants, if he himself had nothing 
at all. In short, to be bodily poor decides nothing. 
For we find many a beggar who gets bread at our 
door more proud and evil-disposed than any rich 
man, and many a miserly farmer with whom it is 
harder to get along than with any lord or prince. 

Therefore be bodily and outwardly poor or rich, 
as may be your lot, God does not ask about that ; 

'■ and he knows that every one must be before God, 
that is spiritually and in his heart, poor; that is, 
not to place his confidence, comfort and assurance 

' in temporal possessions, nor fix his heart upon 

' them and make mammon his idol. David was an 
excellent king and had indeed his purse and his 
chest full of money, his barns full of grain, the 
country full of all sorts of goods and stores ; yet 
along with this he had to be spiritually a poor 
beggar, as he sings a.bout himself: "lam poor, 
and a stranger in the land, as all my fathers were." 
Notice, the king who sits in the midst of such 
.possessions, a lord over land and people, dare not 
call himself anything else than a stranger or a pil- 
grim who goes upon the highway and has no place 
where he can abide. That means a heart that 
does not cling to property and riches ; but, al- 
though it has, yet it is as though it had not, as 
St. Paul boasts of the Corinthians, 2 Cor. vi. 10 : 

) "As poor, yet making many rich ; as having noth- 
ing, and yet possessing all things." 


The meaning of all that has been said is that 
one is to use all temporal good and bodily necessi- 
ties, whilst he lives here, not otherwise than as a 
stranger in a strange place, where he spends the 
night and leaves in the morning. He needs no 
more than food and lodging, and dare not say : 
" This is mine, here will I stay ;" nor dare he take 
possession of the property as tho' of right it be- 
longed to him ; else he would soon hear the host 
say to him: "Friend, do you not know that you 
are a stranger guest here ? Go your way, where/ 
you belong." Just so here ; that you have worldly, 
goods, that is the gift of God to you for this life, 
and he allows you indeed to make use of it and to 
fill with it the worm-bag (Madensack) that you 
wear about your neck ; but not that you fix and 
hang your heart upon it as though you were to 
live forever ; but you are to be always going farther 
and thinking about another higher and better I 
treasure that is your own and is to endure forever.^y 

This is roughly said for the common man, that 
one may learn to understand (speaking according 
to the Scriptures) what it means to be spiritually 
poor or poor before God, not to reckon outwardly 
as to money and property, or as to want or super- 
fluity, since we see (as above said) that the poorest 
and most miserable beggars are the worst and most 
desperate scoundrels, and dare to commit all sorts 
of knavery and evil tricks, which decent, honest 


people, rich citizens or lords and princes, are not 
guilty of ; on the other hand also, many saintly 
people that have had plenty of money, honor, land 
and people, and yet with so much property have 
been poor ; but we must reckon according to the 
heart, that it must not be much concerned whether 
it has anything or nothing, much or little, and al- 
wa):Sv^_treat what it has as though one d[d not 
have it, and had to be ready at any time to lose it, 
keeping the heart always fixed upon the kingdom 
lof heaven. 

, i Again, he is called rich according to the Scrip- 
tures who, although not having any worldly pos- 
sessions, still scrambles and scratches after them, 
so that he never can get enough. These are the 
very ones whom the gospel calls rich bellies, who 
amid great possessions have the very least, and are 
never satisfied with that which God gives them. 
For it looks into the heart which is sticking full of 
money and worldly goods, and judges accordingh', 
although there is nothing in the purse or money 
box. Again it judges him poor in heart, though 
he has chest, house and hearth full. Thus 
Christian faith moves straight forward; it regards 
neither poverty nor riches; it asks only how the 
heart stands. If there be an avaricious belly there, 
the man is said to be spiritually rich; and again, he 
is spiritually poor who does not cling to such 
things and can empty his heart of them, as Christ 


elsewhere says: "He who forsakes houses, lands, 
children, wife, etc., he shall have a hundred fold 
again, and besides eternal life," that he may bear 
away their hearts from earthly good, so that they 
do not regard it as their treasure, and that he may 
comfort his own, who have to forsake it, that they 
shall receive much more and better, even in this 
life, than what they relinquish. 

Not that we are to run away from propertyT', 
home, wife and child, and wander about the coun-i 
try burdening other people, as the Anabaptist crowd 
does, that accuse us of not preaching the gospel 
aright because we keep our home and stay by wife., 
and child. No, such crazy saints he does not want; J 
but the true meaning is: Let a man be able in; 
heart to leave his earthly home, his wife and child, 
though staying in the midst of them, nourishing 
himself along with them and serving them through 
love, as God has commanded, and yet able, if need 
be, to give them up at any time for God's sake. 
If thou art thus disposed, thou hast forsaken all 
things in such a way that thy heart is not tjk:eii 
captive, but remains pure from avarice and from 
clinging to other things for comfort and confi- 
dence. A rich man may properly be called spirit- 
ally poor, and need not therefore throw away his 
earthly possessions, except when he must needs 
forsake them; then let him do it in God's name, 
not for the reason that he would rather be away 


from wife, child and home, but would rather keep 
them as long as God grants it and is served by his 
so doing, and yet willing if he wishes to take them 
from him again. So you see what it means to be 
spiritually and before God poor, or spiritually to 
have nothing and forsake all. 

Now look also at the promise that Christ adds, 
and says: " /^<?r of such is the kingdom of heaven.'''' 
This is indeed a great, excellent, glorious promise, 
that we are to have a beautiful, glorious, great, 
eternal possession in heaven, since we are here 
gladly poor and regardless of earthly good. And 
as thou here givest up a very small matter that 
thou wouldst still gladly use as long and as much 
as thou canst have it, thou shalt instead thereof at- 
tain a crown, that thou mayest be a citizen and a 
lord in heaven. This ought to influence us, if we 
wanted to be Christians, and if we held his words 
to be true. But no one cares who it is that says 
this, and still less what he says; they let it pass 
through their ears in such a way that no one con- 
cerns himself about it any more nor lays it to heart. 

But he shows with these words that no one un- 
derstands this unless he is already a true Christian. 
For this trait and all the rest that follow are simply 
fruits of faith which the Holy Spirit himself must 
work in the heart. Where now faith is not, there 
the kingdom of heaven also will be wanting, nor 
will spiritual poverty, meekness, etc., follow, but 


only sordid raking and scraping, quarreling and 
noisily contending for worldly goods. Therefore 
all pains are lost upon such worldly hearts, so that 
they never learn or know what spiritual poverty is, 
nor do they believe or care for what he says and 
promises about the kingdom of heaven ; although 
for their sake he so orders and ordains it that he 
who will not be spiritually poor in God's name, 
and for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, must 
still be poor in the devil's name and get no thanks 
for it. For God has so hung the greedy to their 
belly that they are never satiated with their greed- 
ily gained good, nor can they ever be happy. For 
squire greediness is such a merry guest, who never 
lets any one rest ; he seeks, pushes and hunts with- 
out ceasing, so that he dare not enjoy his dear 
treasure for an hour; as Solomon the preacher too 
wonders and says: "A man to whom God hath 
given riches, wealth and honor, so that he wanteth 
nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet 
God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a 
stranger eateth it. This is vanity, and it is an evil 
disease." He must always be afraid and anxiously 
concerned how he may keep what he has, and add 
to it, that it perish not, or be diminished, and is so 
completely tied up that he dare not cheerfully spend 
a penny. But if there were a heart that could be 
content and satisfied, it would have rest and the 
kingdom of heaven besides ; otherwise along with 


o^reat possessions, or indeed with its greediness, it 
must have purgatory here and there hellish fire be- 
sides, and as they say : Travel here with a barrow 
and there with a wheel ; that is, have here trouble 
and anxiety and there bitter grief. 

Notice, God always overrules it so that his word 
must remain true, and no one be saved or satisfied 
except Christians ; and the rest, although they have 
everything, yet they are none the better off — indeed 
are not as well off, and must still be poor beggars, 
as far as the heart is concerned ; only that the 
former are willingly poor and are looking forward 
' to an imperishable eternal possession, that is to the 
kingdom of heaven, and are blessed children of 
God ; but the latter are greedy for worldly good 
and still do not get what they want, and must be- 
sides be all the time martyrs of the devil. And 
there is, in short, no difference between a beggar 
before the door, and such a wretched greedy-gut, 
except that the one has nothing and can be put off 
with a crust of bread, whilst the other, the more 
he has the harder he is to fill, even though he 
should get all the world's money and goods in a 

Therefore this sermon, as I said, is of no account 
for the world, and answers for it no good purpose ; 
for it insists upon being sure of its case, and will 
not take anything upon faith, but must see it and 
handle it, and says, it is better to have a sparrow 


ill your hand than to be gaping at a crane in the 
air. Therefore Clirist lets them go, does not want 
to force anybody or drag him to him by the hair; 
but he gives his kind counsel to all who are willing 
to be advised, and holds out before us the most 
precious promise. If thou wilt, thou hast here 
peace and rest in heart, and there forever what thy 
heart shall desire. If thou wilt not, then go along 
and have rather here and there all manner of mis- 
ery and misfortune. For we see and know that all 
depends upon being satisfied and not clinging to 
worldly good ; as many a one is whose heart God 
can fill, though he has only a bit of bread, so that 
he is cheerful and better contented than any prince 
or king. In short, he is a rich lord and emperor ; 
need have no care, trouble or sorrow. 

That is the first part of this sermon: He who 
wants to have enough here and there, let him take i 
heed that he be not greedy and avaricious, but ac- / 
cept and use what God gives, and earn his daily \ 
bread in faith, then he will have here his paradise / 
and even the kingdom of heaven, as Paul says, i 
Tim. iv. 8, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, 
having promise of the life that now is and of that 
which is to come." 

V. 4. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

As he began this sermon against the teaching 
and faith of the Jews (and indeed not of them alone, 


but of the whole world, even where it is at its best, 
which clings to the notion that it is well off if it 
only has possessions, honor, and its mammon, and 
it serves God only for this end), he now continues 
and shows the folly of what they regarded as the 
best, most blessed life upon earth, viz., having 
good, quiet days and suffering no discomfort, as 
some are described in the seventy-third Psalm: 
"They are not in trouble as other men, neither are 
they plagued like other men." For that is. the 
chief thing that men desire, that they may have 
joy and pleasure and have no trouble. Now Christ 
turns the leaf over, states the exact opposite, and 
calls those blessed that have sadness and suffering, 
and so throughout, all these statements are made in 
direct opposition to the world's way of thinking, 
as it would like to have it. For it does not want 
to suffer hunger, trouble, disgrace, contempt, injust- 
ice and violence, and those who can be free from 
all this it counts blessed. 

So that he means here to say that there must be 
another life than the one they seek and care for, 
and that a Christian must see to it that he is a suf- 
■ fererand sorrow-bearer in this life. He who will 
not do this may indeed have a good time here, and 
live according to all his heart's desire, but he will 
have to suffer forever hereafter, as Luke says, 
vi. 25, "Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye 
shall mourn and weep." So it went with the rich 


man, Lk. xvi., who lived sumptuously and joyfully 
every day, clothed in purple and fine linen, and 
thought he was a great saint and well off before 
God because he had given him so much that was 
good, though he at the same time let poor Lazarus 
lie daily before his door full of sores, in hunger and 
distress and great misery. But what kind of a 
judgment did he hear at last when he was lying in 
hell? "Remember thou in thy lifetime didst re- 
ceive thy good things and Lazarus his evil things, 
therefore thou art now tormented and he is com- 
forted, ' ' etc. See, that is exactly our text : ' ' Blessed 
are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted;" 
and again, as much as to say: Those who here 
seek and have nothing but joy and pleasure shall 
weep and howl forever. 

Do you ask again: What then are we to do? 
Are those all to be damned that laugh, sing, dance, 
dress well, eat and drink? We surely read about 
kings and holy people that were cheerful and lived 
well. And especially Paul is a wonderful saint, 
who insists upon it that we be always cheerful, 
Phil. iv. 4, and says, Rom, xii, 15, "Rejoice with 
them that do rejoice, ' ' and again : ' 'Weep with those 
that weep." Observe, that seems inconsistent, to 
rejoice evermore and yet weep and mourn with 
others. Answer: Just as I said before, that to have 
riches is no sin, nor is it forbidden; just so to be 
cheerful, to eat and drink well, is no sin, nor is it 


condemnatory; in like manner it is not wrong to 
have honor and a good name; and yet I am to be 
blessed if I do not have this, or can do without it, 
and instead of this suffer poverty, wretchedness, 
disgrace and persecution. So both of these things 
are here, and must be, to mourn and be cheerful, 
to eat and suffer hunger, as Paul boasts concerning 
himself, Phil. iv. ii seq. : " I have learned, in what- 
soever state I am, therewith to be content. I 
know both how to be abased and how to abound: 
everywhere and in all things I am instructed both 
to be^ull and to be huno;r^ both to abound and to 
suffer need." ^ Also, 2 Cor. vi. 8 seq. : "By honor 
and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as 
dying, and behold we live; as sorrowful, yet always 
rejoicing," etc. 

Therefore, the meaning is: Just as not he is 
called spiritually poor who has no money or any- 
thing of his own, but he who does not hanker 
after it or put his confidence in it as if it were his 
kingdom of heaven: so also not he is said to mourn 
who is always outwardly of downcast countenance, 
looking gloomy and never laughing; but he who 
does not comfort himself with having a good time 
and living sumptuously, as the world does — that 
cares for nothing but having constant joy and 
pleasure, and revels in it, and does not think or 
care how it goes with God or the people. 

Thus many excellent, great people, kings and 


others, that were Christians, have had to mourn 
and bear trouble, although they lived splendidly 
before the world; as David everywhere in the 
Psalms complains about his weeping and sorrow- 
ing. And also now I could easily give examples 
of great people, lords and princes, who have had 
the same bitter experience with reference to the 
precious gospel; as, now at the late diet at Augs- 
burg and on other occasions, although they got 
along very well outwardly, and were clothed in 
princely style in silk and gold, and to all appear- 
ance were like those who walk upon roses, yet 
they had to be daily right among poisonous ser- 
pents, and they had to experience at heart such 
unheard-of arrogance, insolence and shame, so 
many evil tricks and words from the shameful 
papists, who took pleasure in embittering their 
hearts and as far as they could in preventing them 
from having a single cheerful hour, so that they 
had to chew the cud of inward misery and do noth- 
ing but lament before God with sighs and tears. 
Such people know something of what it means to 
mourn and be sorrowful, although they do not at 
once show it, but eat and drink with others, and 
sometimes with laughing and jesting, to conceal 
their sorrow. For you must not think that mourn- 
ing means only weeping and lamenting, or wailing, 
like children and women; this is not yet the real 
deep grief, if it has found its way to the heart and 

36 luther'vS commentary on the 

pours itself out through the eyes; but that is it, 
when the real hard blows come that strike and 
crush the heart, so that one cannot weep or dare 
complain to any one. 

Therefore mourning is not a rare plant among 
Christians, although it makes no outward show, 
even if they would gladly be cheerful in Christ, 
and also outwardly as much as they can. For 
when they look at the world they must daily see 
and be painfully conscious of so much malice, ar- 
rogance, contempt for and blaspheipy of God and 
his word, and besides so much misery and mis- 
fortune that the devil occasions, both in church 
and state, that they cannot have many cheerful 
thoughts, and their spiritual joy is very weak. 
And if they were to look at such things all the 
while, and did not sometimes turn their eyes away, 
they could never be cheerful at all ; it is enough 
that this really happens oftener than they would 
wish, so that they need not go far to find it. 

Therefore only begin and be a Christian, and you 
will soon learn what mourning means. If you 
cannot do better, take a wife, and settle yourself, 
and make a living in faith, so that you love the 
word of God and do what belongs to your calling ; 
then you will soon learn, both from neighbors and 
in your own house, that things will not go as you 
would like, and you will be everywhere hindered 
and hedged so that you will get enough to suffer 


and must see wliat will make you sad at heart. Es- 
pecially however the dear preachers must learn this 
thoroughly, and be daily exercised with it, so that 
they must take to heart all manner of envy, hatred, 
scorn and ridicule, ingratitude, contempt besides, 
and revilejnent, so that they are inwardly pierced 
and uninterruptedly tormented. 

But the world will have none of this mourning, 
therefore it seeks those callings and modes of liv- 
ing in which it can have a good time and need not 
suffer anything from anybody, as the monks' and 
priests' calling used to be. For it cannot endure ^ 
that it should in a divinely given calling serve 
other people with constant care, trouble and labor, 
and get nothing for this but ingratitude and con- 
tempt and other malicious treatment as a reward. 
Therefore when things do not go with it as it 
wishes, and one is scowled at by another, they can 
do nothing but pound away with cursing and 
swearing, yes, and with their fists besides, and are 
ready to sacrifice property and reputation, land and 
people. But God orders it so, that they still must 
not get off so easily, that they need not see or suffer 
any misery, and he awards to them as a recom- 
pense, because they try to avoid it, that they still 
must suffer, and even make this twofold greater 
and heavier by their wrath and impatience, and 
cannot have any comfort and good conscience. 
But Christians have this advantage, that although 


they mourn they shall be comforted and be blessed 
both here and there. 

Therefore, whoever does not want to be out and 
out a worldling-, but to have part with Christians, 
let him be counted in as one who helps to sigh 
and mourn, so that he may be comforted, as this 
promise tells. We read of a case of this kind in 
the prophecy of Ezekiel, chapter nine, how God 
sent six men with deadly weapons to the city of 
Jerusalem. But he commissioned one among them 
to go through the midst of the city with "a writer's 
inkhorn by his side," to "set a mark upon the 
foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all 
the abominations that be done in the midst there- 
of." Those thus marked were to remain alive, 
but the rest were all to be slain. See, this is the 
advantage of Christians, that although they must 
see only sorrow and misery in the world, yet at last 
it comes to pass, when the world is most secure and 
is moving along in full enjoyment, that the little 
wheel turns, and suddenly a misfortune overtakes 
them in which these must remain and perish, 
whilst the others are snatched out of it and deliv- 
ered, as in the case of dear Lot at Sodom, when 
they had long vexed his heart (as St. Peter says) 
"with their filthy conversation." Therefore let 
the world now laugh and live in revelry, according 
to its lust and wantonness. And though you have 
to mourn and weep, and daily see what grieves 


your heart, submit and hold fast to the saying [of 
our text], that you may be satisfied and comfort 
yourself with it, and also outwardly refresh your- 
self and be as cheerful as you can. 

For those who thus mourn may properly have 
and take joy when they can, so that they do not 
utterly sink through sadness. For Christ also 
added these very words and promised this consola- 
tion, that they should not despond in their sorrow, 
or let the joy of their heart be entirely taken away 
and extinguished, but should mingle this mourn- 
ing with consolation and refreshment, otherwise, 
if they never had any comfort or joy, they would 
have to pine and shrivel away. For no man can 
endure nothing but mourning ; for it sucks out the 
very juices of the body, as the wise man says : 
"Grief has killed many people." Also: "A 
gloomy spirit dries up the marrow in the bones." 
Therefore we should not only avoid this, but we 
should commend and urge such people to be cheer- 
ful sometimes, if possible; or at least to moderate 
their grief and partly forget it. 

Therefore Christ does not wish that there should ( 
be nothing but mourning and sadness here, but 
warns against those who will not mourn at all, who 
want to have only a good time and all their com- 
fort here ; and he wants to teach his Christians, if 
it goes badly with them and they have to mourn, j 
that they may know that this is God's good pleas- 


lire, and it should also be theirs, and that they 
should not swear, or rage, or despair, as though 
their God had no mercy. When this is the case, 
the little bitter draught is to be mixed with honey 
and sugar, and so made less repulsive ; that is the 
purpose of this promise, that this is well pleasing 
to him, and that he calls them blessed, besides that 
he comforts them here, and there they shall be en- 
tirely relieved of sorrow. 

Therefore bid good-bye to the w^orld and all that 
harm us, in the name of their lord, the devil, and 
let us sing this song and be cheerful, in the name 
of God and Christ. For it will surely not end with 
them as they wish ; but, although they now rejoice 
at our misfortune, and do much to injure us, we 
will still keep up good courage, and shall live to see 
that they will have to weep and lament when we 
are comforted and happy. 

V. 5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the 

This beatitude follows admirably upon the first 
when he said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc. 
For as he there promised the kingdom of heaven 
and an eternal inheritance, so he here adds a 
promise of this present life and possessions here 
upon earth. 

But how does this agree together? to be poor 
and to possess the land ? It seems to me that the 


preacher has forgotten how he began. For, if one 
is to possess the land and worldly goods, he cannot 
be poor. But he does not mean to say here that to 
own the land and have all kinds of possessions 
here upon earth, means, that every one is to possess 
a whole country; else God would have to create 
more worlds; but he refers to the blessings that 
God bestows upon each one, that he gives to one 
wife, children, cattle, house and home, and what is 
implied in this, that he may abide in the land 
(where he lives) and have control of his worldly 
goods, as the scriptures usually speak, and it is re- ', 
peatedly said in Psalm thirty-seven: "those that 1 
wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth;" also, / 
' ' such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth, ' ' J 
etc. Therefore, he himself adds here the gloss, 
that to be spiritually poor, of which he spoke be- 
fore, does riot mean to be a beggar, or to throw 
away money and goods. For he teaches here that 
they are to remain and dwell in the land and have 
to do with earthly possessions; as we shall hear 
bye and bye. 

Now, what does it mean to be meek ? Here you 
must, in the first place, be again reminded, that 
Christ is not speaking at all about the government 
and its official authority; for it does not belong to 
this to be meek (sanftmiithig, as we use the word 
Sanftmuth in German); for it holds the sword, 
that it may punish the wicked, and it has a wrath 


and vengeance that are called the wrath and ven- 
ge ance o f God ; but he is speaking only of iiidiyid- 
ual persons^ how each one is to conduct himself 
towards others,- aside from official position and 
control; as father and mother, if they do not live 
as father and mother towards their children, nor 
perform their official duty as father and mother, 
that is, towards those who are not called father 
or mother, as neighbors and others. For I have 
elsewhere often said that we must make a wide 
difference between these two, office and person. 
He who is known as Jack or Martin is a very dif- 
ferent man from him who is called Elector, or 
Doctor, or Preacher. 

For here we have two different persons in one 
man. One, in which we are created and born, ac- 
cording to which we are all alike, man, woman, 
child, young, old, etc. But when we have now 
been born, God makes of you another person, makes 
you a child, me a father ; one a master, another a 
servant ; this one a prince, that one a citizen, etc. 
That means then a divine person, holding a divine 
office, and moves clothed with its own dignity, and 
is not called simply Jack or Nicholas, but a prince 
of Saxony, or father and master. Here he says 
nothing about these, but lets them move on in their 
pffice and rank, as he has ordered it ; but he is 
speaking of the mere, single, natural person, what 
each is to do for himself, as a man, towards others. 


Therefore, if we hold official and authoritative L 
position, we must be strict and rigid, be wrathful t' 
and punish, etc. For here we must do what God * 
places within our reach and of his own accord 
commands us to do. Beyond this, in what is un- 
official, let every one learn for himself that he be 
mild towards everybody, that is, not to deal with 
and treat his neighbor unreasonably, with a hate- 
ful or revengeful spirit, like those who rush through 
headlong, never willing to bear anything or yield 
an inch, but turning the world upside down, never 
listening to anybody or excusing him for anything, 
but pile on the bundles at once and never stop to 
think, only how they may take vengeance and 
strike back again. Rulers are not hereby forbid- 
den to punish and enforce retribution by divine 
authority; but also no license is here granted for a 
judge, burgomaster, lord or prince, who is a 
villain, and confounds the two persons and goes 
beyond his official authority through personal 
malice, or from envy, hatred and hostility (as often 
happens) under the mantle of office and legal right: 
as if our neighbors, under the name of the authori- 
ties, wanted to carry out something against us 
which they could not otherwise accomplish. 

And especially he is here talking again with his 
Jews, as he had begun, who always insisted upon 
it that they were not to suffer anything from a 
heathen and a stranger, and that they were always 

44 IwUThkr's commentary on the 

right if they unhesitatingly avenged themselves, 
and quoted for this purpose the sayings of Moses, 
as Deut. viii. 23 : "The Lord shall make thee the 
head and not the tail; and thou shalt be above 
only and not beneath," etc., which would be all 
right enough. But the meaning is, if God him- 
self does this, then it is well done. For it is alto- 
gether another matter if he orders it and says: I 
will do it, and if we do it ourselves, without 
authority. What he says, that shall and must be 
done. What, we say, that happens if it can, or 
perhaps it does not happen at all. Therefore you 
have no right to apply to yourself this promise, and 
take confidence from it when you want to do 
something which he ought to do, and you will not 
wait till he tells you to do it. 

Observe, Christ is here rebuking those wild 

saints who think every one is master in the whole 

world and has a perfect right to bear no suffering, 

but only to make a racket and bluster, and with 

violence to defend his own; and he teaches us that 

/he who wishes to rule and possess his own, his 

/ property, home, etc., in peace, must be meek, 

1 so that he may overlook things and act reason- 

^ ably, and suffer just as much as he can. For it 

I cannot be otherwise but that your neighbor will 

1 sometimes take advantage of or injure you, either 

^accidentally or through malice. If it was done ac- 

^ cidentally, you make it no better on your part if 


you neither can nor will endure anything. If it \ 
was done maliciously, you only aggravate him by ^ 
scratching and pounding, whilst he is laughing at 
3'ou and making merry that he is worrying and / 
vexing you, so that you still can have no peace or / 
quietly enjoy your own. 

Therefore choose one of the two, whichever you 
please: either to live with meekness and patience 
among the people and keep what you have with 
peace and a good conscience, or with racket and 
rumpus to lose your own, and besides have no 
peace. For this is settled, the meek shall inherit 
the earth. And look only yourself at those queer 
characters that are always quarreling and disputing 
about property and other matters, and yielding to 
nobody, but are determined to rush everything 
through, whether they do not squander more by 
quarreling and contending than they could evei 
gain, and at last lose land and people, house and 
home, with unrest and a bad conscience besides; 
and God adds his sanction to it, which says: "Be 
then not meek, so that you do not keep the land, j 
nor enjoy your mite with peace." But if you want 
to live rightly and have rest, then let your neigh- 
bor's malice and hostility smother and extinguish 
itself; otherwise you cannot better please the devil, 1 
or more greatly harm yourself, than by getting up/ 
an angry racket. Have you a government over 
you? report the case and let them attend to it. 


For it is the business of the government not to 
permit the innocent to be much oppressed; and 
God will also overrule in such a way that his word 
and ordinance abides, and you according to this 
promise come to possess the land. Thus you will 
have peace and blessing from God, but your neigh- 
bor will have unrest, together with God's displeas- 
ure and curse. 

But this ..sermon is intended only for those who 
are Christians, and believe, and knoV that they 
have their treasure in heaven, that is secure for 
them, and cannot be taken from them; therefore 
they must have enough also here, although they 
do not have chests and pockets full of red ducats. 
Since you know this, why will you let your joy be 
disturbed and taken from you — yes, why even make 
disquiet for yourself and rob yourself of this excel- 
lent promise? 

Observe, you have now three points with three 
rich promises, so that he who is a Christian must 
have enough, both temporal and eternal, though 
he must here suffer much, both inwardly, in heart, 
and outwardly. Again, the worldlings, because 
they will not endure poverty, nor trouble, nor vio- 
lence, neither have nor enjoy either the kingdom 
of heaven or worldly good with peace and quiet. 
XYou can read more about this in Psalm thirty- 
j seven, which is the real commentary upon this 
\ passage, and richly describes how the meek inherit 
the earth and the ungodly are to be cut off. 


V. 6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after 
righteousness, for they shall be filled. 

Righteousness must here not be understood as 
being the Christian righteousness in general, 
whereby the person becomes pious and acceptable 
before God. For I have before said that these 
eight beatitudes are nothing else than a teaching 
about the fruits and good works of a Christian, 
which must be preceded by faith, as the tree and 
main body or sum of his righteousness and blessed- 
ness, without any work or merit, out of which 
these beatitudes must all grow and follow. There- 
fore understand here the outward righteousness 
before the world, which we observe among our- 
selves towards others, that this is the meaning, 
short and simple, of these words: he is a really 
blessed man who perseveringly and assiduously > 
strives to promote the general welfare and the right 
conduct of every one, and who helps to maintain , 
and carry this out with word and deed, with coun- / 
sel and act. 

This is now also an excellent beatitude, which 
comprehends very many good works, but which is 
by no means common. For instance, that we may 
illustrate, if a preacher wishes to be counted as 
hungering and thirsting for righteousness, he must 
be ready to instruct and help every one in his call- 
ing, that he may conduct it properly and do what 
belongs to it, and when he sees that there is some- 


thing wanting, and things do not go right, that he 
be on hand, warn, rebuke, and correct as well and 
by such means as he can: thus that I, as a preacher, 
be faithful to my office, and others to theirs, that 
they follow my teaching and preaching, and thus 
on both sides the right thing is done. Where now 
there are such people as take a special and earnest 
interest in gladly doing what is right, or in being 
found rightly at work, these may be said to be 
hungering and thirsting after righteousness. If 
this were the case there would be no knavery or 
injustice, but complete righteousness and blessed- 
ness on earth. For what is the righteousness of 
the world else than that every one do in his calling 
what is due? That means that every one's rights 
should be duly regarded, those of the man, the 
woman, the child, the man servant and maid ser- 
vant in the family, the citizen or the city in the 
land; and it all amounts to this, that those who are 
to oversee and rule other people execute this office 
with diligence, carefulness and fidelity, and that 
the others also faithfully and willingly render to 
these due service and obedience. 

Nor does he without cause use the phrase : 
"Hunger and thirst after righteousness; " he means 
thereby to indicate that in order to attain it one 
must have great earnestness, a yearning eagerness 
and incessant diligence : that where there is a lack 
of this hunger and thirst, all will amount to noth- 


ing. The reason is this ; for there are too many 
and great hindrances, both on the part of the devil, 
who is everywhere blocking the way, and on the 
part of the world, (namely his children,) which is 
so wicked that it cannot endure a pious man, who 
wants to do right or help others to do it ; but it so 
annoys and worries him that in the end he loses 
patience and is out of humor about it. For it is 
painful to see how shamefully people act, and re- 
ward whole-hearted kindness with ingratitude, con- 
tempt, hatred and persecution. Hence also many 
persons who could not bear to witness this base 
conduct, at last grew desperate about it and took 
refuge in the wilderness, fleeing from human so- 
ciety and becoming monks, so that the saying has 
often been verified : "Despair makes a monk;" 
either, that one does not trust to make his own 
living and runs into a monastery for his stomach's 
sake, as the great crowd has done ; or, that one 
despairs of the world and does not trust to remain 
pious in it or to help other people. 

But this is not hungering and thirsting after 
righteousness. For he who wants to preach or 
rule in such a way, that he allows himself to be 
made weary and impatient, and to scamper off into 
a corner, he will be slow to help other people. It 
is not your duty to creep into a corner or into the 
wilderness, but to come out briskly, if you were 
therein, and offer both your Jiaiid^_and feet and 


your whole body for use, and hazard everything 
that you have and can do ; and you are to be such 
a man as can be hard against hard, so as not to 
allow himself to be frightened off or dumfounded, 
or be overcome by the ingratitude or malice of the 
world : but you sliQuld always push along and per- 
severe as much as possible. In short, you should 
have such a hunger and thirst after rio-hteousness 
that will never diminish or cease and cannot be 
satiated, so that you care for nothing else, only so 
that you may accomplish and maintain what is 
right, despising on the other hand everything that 
would hinder you. If one cannot make the world 
altogether pious, let him do what he can. It is 
enough, that he has done his own duty, and has 
helped some, if only one or two. If the others 
will not follow, then let them go, in God's name. 
One must not run off because of the wicked, but 
conclude : it was not undertaken for their sake, nor 
for their sake w^as it dropped ; perhaps bye and bye 
some of them may come to their senses, or there 
may be fewer of them, and they may somewhat 

For here you have a consolatory, certain prom- 
ise, with which Christ allures and attracts his 
Christians, that those who hunger and thirst after 
righteousness shall be filled ; that is, that they shall 
be delightfully rewarded for their hunger and thirst 
by seeing that they have not labored in vain, and 


that at last some have been reached who have been 
benefited; and it will be manifest not only here 
' upon earth, but still more hereafter, when every 
one will see what such people have accomplished 
by their diligence and perseverance, although 
things do not now go as they would like, and they 
have nearly lost heart ; as when a pious preacher 
has snatched so many souls out of the jaws of the 
devil and brought them to heaven ; or a pious 
faithful ruler has helped many lands and people, 
who bear this testimony of him and praise him be- 
fore the whole world. 

Just the opposite, are the sham saints who out 
of great sanctity forsake the world and run into 
the wilderness, or hide themselves in corners, so 
that they may escape the trouble and worry that 
they must otherwise endure, and pay no regard to 
what is going on in the world ; never once think- 
ing upon it that they ought to help or advise other 
people with doctrine, instruction, exhortation, re- 
proof and correction, or at least with praying and 
supplication to God. Yes, they are disgusted with 
it, and grieve over it, that other people become 
pious, for thej^ want to be considered the only holy 
ones, so that whoever wants to get to heaven must 
buy from them their good works and merit. In 
short, they are so full of righteousness that they 
look contemptuously upon other poor sinners, just 
as the great saint Pharisee, Lk. xviii., intoxicated 


with self-sufficiency, blurts out his contempt for 
the poor publican, is profuse in his self-congratu- 
lations, so that he pays his respects to God, and is 
thankful thai he alone is pious and other people 

Observe, these are the people against whom 
Christ here speaks — the proud, self-sufficient spirits 
that tickle themselves with and find joy and pleas- 
ure in the fact that other people are not pious, 
whereas they ought to pity, compassionate and 
help them ; they cannot do anything else but de- 
spise, backbite, judge and condemn everybody; and 
everything must be stench and filth except what 
they themselves do. But, that they should go and 
instruct and benefit a poor faulty sinner, that they- 
shun as they would shun the devil. Therefore 
they will have to hear again, how Christ exclaims 
about them, Lk. vi. 25: "Woe unto you that are 
full, for ye shall hunger." For as those shall be 
filled, who now hunger and thirst ; so must those 
forever hunger, who now are so full and satiated, 
and yet no one can get any good from them, or 
boast that they have ever helped any one or led 
him in the right way. Now you have in a word 
the meaning of this beatitude, which (as above 
said) comprehends many good works, yes all good 
works, wherewith every one may live aright by 
himself among the people and help to give success 
to all sorts of offices and callings ; as I have often 
shown elsewhere. 


V. 7. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 

This is also an excellent fruit of faith, and fol- 
lows well upon the preceding: he who is to help 
others and contribute to the common well-being 
and success, should also be kind and merciful — that 
is, that he should not be ready to raise a racket 
and make a disturbance if something be wanting, 
and things do not go as they should, whilst there 
is still hope of improvement. For that is one of 
the virtues of sham sanctity that it can have no 
compassion for or mercy upon the fallible and 
weak, but insists upon the extremest strictness and 
most careful selection, and as soon as there is the 
slightest failure, all mercy is gone and they do 
nothing but fume and fret; as also St. Gregory 
shows how to recognize this, and say: Vera justitia 
compassionem habet, falsa indignationem — true 
holiness is merciful and compassionate, but false 
holiness can do nothing but be angry and rage; 
and yet they say: Pro zelo justitiae, (as they boast), 
that is, we do it through love and zeal for right- 

For all the world is coming to see that they have 
been carrying on their mischievous and outrageous 
tricks under the beautiful, excellent semblance and 
cover that they were doing it for the sake of right- 
eousness. Just as they have heretofore exhibited 
and are still exhibiting their hostility to and 
treachery against the gospel under the name of 


protecting the truth aud exterminating heresy; 
they claim thereby to merit that God is to crown 
them for this and raise them to heaven, as those 
who out of great thirst and hunger for righteous- 
ness persecute, strangle and burn his saints. For 
they claim, forsooth, to have the name, even more 
than the true saints, of hungering and thirsting 
after righteousness, and put on such a sanctimon- 
ious appearance and use such admirable words, 
that they think even God himself will not know 
any better. 

But the noble tree is known by its fruits. For, 
when they should insist upon righteousness, that 
both spiritual and temporal affairs be rightly con- 
ducted, they do not do it, do not think of instruct- 
ing and improving any one, live themselves in 
constant vice, and if any one rebukes their conduct, 
or does not praise it and do as they wish, he must 
be a heretic aud let himself be damned to hell. 
See, just so is surely every sham saint. For his 
self-righteousness makes him so proud that he de- 
spises everybody else, and can have no kind, . 
merciful heart. Therefore is this a necessary 
warning against these abominable saints, so that 
every one may take care, if he has to do with his 
neighbor, whom he should help and rectify in his 
way of living, that he still may be able to be merci- 
ful, and forgive, that it may be seen that you are 
honestly aiming at righteousness, and not wishing 


to gratify your own malice and anger, and that 
you are so ri'ghteous that you deal amicably and 
gently with him who is willing to desist from un- 
righteousness and become better, that you bear 
with and endure his fault or weakness until he 
comes to terms. If, however, you try all this, and 
still find no hope of improvement, then you may 
give him up and turn him over to those whose 
place it is to punish him. 

This is now one side of mercifulness, that one 
takes pleasure in forgiving sinners and those at 
fault. The other is to be beneficent also towards 
those who are externally in need or require help, 
which we call works of mercy, from Matt. xxv. ' 
35. This feature too the ostentatious Jewish saints 
knew nothing about. For with them there was 
nothing but ice and frost, yes a heart hard as a 
block or a stone, and not an affectionate drop of 
blood that found pleasure in doing good to a neigh- 
bor, and no mercifulness to forgive sin; they cared 
and planned alone for their own belly, although 
another might die of hunger; so that there is much 
more mercifulness among open sinners than in 
such a saint; as it cannot be otherwise, since they 
praise only themselves and count themselves holy, 
despising every one else as of no account, and sup- 
pose that all the world must serve them and give 
them plenty; but they are not under obligation to 
give anything to or to serve anybody. 


Therefore this sermon and exhortation is de- 
spised by and of no account among such saints, 
and finds no scholars except those who are already 
cleaving to and believing on Christ, who know of 
no holiness of their own, but who, as already de- 
scribed, are poor, wretched, meek, really hunger- 
ing and thirsting, and so disposed that they despise 
nobody, but compassionately sympathize with the 
need of everybody else. To these applies now the 
comforting promise: It is well for you that are 
merciful, for you will find again abundant mercy, 
both here and hereafter, and such mercy as inex- 
pressibly far exceeds all human benefactions and 
mercifulness. For there is no comparison between 
our mercifulness and that of God, nor between our 
possessions and the eternal treasures in the king- 
dom of heaven; and he is so pleased with our ben- 
efactions to our neighbor that he promises us for a 
penny a hundred thousand ducats, if it were neces- 
sary for us, and for a drink of water the kingdom 
of heaven. 

Now, if any one will not suffer himself to be 
moved by this excellent, comforting promise, let 
him turn the other side of the page and hear an- 
other sentence: "Woe to the unmerciful, and let 
them be cursed, for no mercy shall be shown to 
them; as now the world is full of such people, 
among the nobility and citizens and farmers, wlio 
so wondrously sin against the dear gospel that they 


not only give nothing to poor pastors and preach- 
ers, but besides take and torment, where they can, 
and act just as if they meant to starve it out and 
drive it out of the world, and notwithstanding go 
along quite securely, thinking that God must keep 
quiet about it and let them do just as they please." 
But they will be struck some day, and, I fear, 
somebody will come who will make of me (who have 
given warning enough) a prophet, and he will treat 
them with perfect heartlessness, and besides take 
from them reputation and property, body and life, 
that God's word may remain true, and he experi- 
ence unmitigated wrath and eternal displeasure 
who will not show or have mercy, as St. James 
says: "He shall have judgment without mercy 
that hath showed no mercy." 

Therefore also Christ at the last day will adduce 
this unmercifulness as the worst injury done against 
himself, even all that we have done out of unchar- 
itableness, and will himself utter the curse: "I 
was hungry and thirsty and ye gave me no meat, 
ye gave me no drink, etc. Depart ye, therefore, ye 
cursed, into everlasting, hellish fire," etc. He 
warns and exhorts us faithfully from pure grace 
and mercy. Whoever will not accept this, let him 
choose the worse and eternal damnation. Consider 
the rich man, Lk. xvi. igseq., who, although he 
saw poor Lazarus daily lying at his gate full of 
sores, had not charity enough to gi^e him a bundle 



of straw or allow him the crumbs from under his 
table. But see how fearfully he was requited, that 
in hell he would gladly have given a hundred 
thousand ducats if he could only boast of having 
given him a thread. 

V. 8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see Cod. 

This beatitude is somewhat obscure, and not so 
easily understood by us who have such gross 
carnal hearts and minds, and it is hidden, too, 
from all the sophists, who should really be the 
most learned, so that none of them can say what it 
means to have a pure heart, and still less, what it 
means to see God; they busy themselves with mere 
dreams and evil thoughts, about matters of which 
they know nothing themselves by experience. 

Therefore we must look at these words according 
to the Scriptures, and learn to understand them 
correctly. A pure heart, they fancy, means that a 
man runs off from the community into a corner, a 
monastery, or the wilderness, and does not think 
• upon the world, nor concern himself about worldly 
affairs and business, but amuses himself with noth- 
ing but heavenly thoughts; they have by this 
fanciful teaching not only befooled and dangerously 
misled themselves and other people, but have com- 
mitted the murderous fault of holding as unclean 
the doing of things and holding of positions in 
society that are unavoidable in the world and indeed 
are by God himself appointed. 


But the Scripture speaks of this pure heart and 
mind, that it is quite consistent with it that one 
be a husband, love his wife and children, think 
about them and care for them, and busy himself 
about other matters that belong to such a relation. 
For all this God has ordained. But what God has 
ordained, . that cannot be impure — yes, it is the 
very purity with which we see God. Thus, when 
a judge acts in his official capacity and condemns a 
criminal to death, that is not his office and work, 
but God's. Therefore it is a good, pure and holy 
work (if he be indeed a Christian) which he could 
not do if he had not already a pure heart. Also, 
that must be called a pure work and heart, al- 
though a man or maid-servant in the house per- 
forms a dirty, filthy task, as hauling manure, or 
washing and cleaning children. Therefore it is a 
shameful perversion when one pays so little atten- 
tion to the relations that are embraced in the ten 
commandments, and gapes after other, special, 
showy works; just as if God had not as pure a 
mouth or eyes as we, or as pure a heart and hand 
when he makes both man and woman: how should 
then such works or thoughts make an impure 
heart? But thus they shall become blind and fools ; 
who despise the word of God and measure purity ; 
only by the outward mask and display of works^ 
and meanwhile have to make mischief with their 
own wandering thoughts, and stand gaping to 


climb up to heaven and feel after God, until in the 
effort they break their own necks. 

Therefore, let us understand rightly what Christ 
means by a pure heart ; and notice again, that this 
sermon was principally aimed at and sharply di- 
rected against the Jews. For, as they wanted to 
have no suffering, but coveted a life of ease, pleas- 
ure and joy, and would not hunger, nor be merci- 
ful, but to be self-satisfied and the only pious ones, 
besides judging and despising others ; so their 
holiness, too, was this, that they must be out- 
wardly clean, in body, skin, hair, clothes and 
food, so that not even a little spot dare be upon 
their clothing. And if any one touched a dead 
body, or had a scab or the itch upon his person, he 
dared not approach other people ; that they re- 
garded as purity. But that is not what constitutes 
being pure, said he ; but those I praise who take 
pains to be of a pure heart, as he says. Matt, xxiii. 
25: "Ye make clean the outside of the cup and 
of the platter, but within are full of extortion and 
excess." Also: "Ye are like unto whited sepul- 
chres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but 
are within full of dead men's bones and of all un- 
cleanness;" just as is the case with our clergy at 
present, altho' they lead outwardly a decent life, 
and conduct the public worship with such formality 
and display that it is something beautiful to see. 
But he does not ask for such purity, but wants to 


have the heart pure, though it be one who is out- 
wardly a scullion in the kitchen, black, sooty and 
beorinied, and doing- all sorts of dirtv work. 

What then is a pure heart? or in what does it \ 
consist ? Answer : It is easily told, and you need 
not climb to heaven nor run into a monastery after • 
it and make it out with your own thoughts ; but / 
be guarded against all such thoughts as you call [ 
your own, as against so much mud and filth, and \ 
know, that a monk in the monastery, when he is ; 
sitting in his deepest contemplativeness, and think- 
ing of his Lord God, as he paints and imagines 
him to himself, is sitting (if you will pardon me) 
in the dirt, not up to his knees, but over head and 
ears. For he is following his own notions, with- 
out any word of God, which is simply lying and i 
delusion; as the Scriptures everywhere testify. I 
But that is a pure heart, that is ever on the look- 
out for God's word, and takes this in place of_it^ 
own thoughts. For^nTy that is pure before God, 
yes purity itself, through which everything that 
comes in contact with it and belongs to it is and 
is called pure. So with a common rough mechanic, 
a cobbler or a smith, who sits at home, though he 
be personally unclean and sooty, or smells badly 
on account of being blackened and soiled, and 
thinks : My God has made me a man and given me 
a house, wife and child, and ordered me to love 
them, and with my labor to nourish them, etc. 


Now observe, he is making a heart matter of it 
with God, and, although outwardly he stinks, in- 
wardly he is perfectly fragrant before God. But 
.if he gets to be highly pure, so that he also em- 
braces the gospel and believes on Christ (without 
which indeed that purity cannot be), then he is 
pure through and 'through, inwardly at heart 
towards God, and outwardly towards everything 
that is under him upon earth, so that everything 
that he is and does, whether he goes, stands, eats 
and drinks, etc., is pure to him, and nothing can 
make him impure ; so when he looks at his own 
wife or sports with her, as the patriarch Isaac, Gen. 
xxvi. 8, which to a monk is disgusting and makes 
him impure. For there he has the word of God, 
and knows that God has given her to him. But 
if he forsook his wife and took up another, or 
neglected his trade or office and injured or worried 
other people, he would be no longer pure ; for that 
would be against the command of God. 

As long, however, as he is faithful in these two 
particulars, namely, in the word of faith towards 
God, by which the heart becomes pure, and in the 
word of the knowledge of what he is to do towards 
his neighbor in his calling, everything is pure to 
him, even if with his fists and his whole body he 
is busy with dirt. A poor servant girl, if she does 
what she ought to, and along with it is a Christian, 
she is before God in heaven a beautiful, pure maid, 


SO that all the angels applaud her and love to look 
at her. On the other hand, the very strictest Car- 
thusian, though he fasts and castigates himself to 
death, does nothing but weep for pure devotion, 
and never thinks about the world, and yet is with- 
out faith in Christ and love towards his neighbor, 
is a mere stench and pollution, both inside and 
outside, so that both God and the angels abomi- 
nate and are disgusted with him. 

So you see how all depends upon the word of 
God, so that what is comprehended in and moves 
with that, must all be called clean, pure and snow- 
white as to God and man. Therefore St. Paul 
says, Titus i. xv:^"To the pure all things^ are 
pure, " and again: "Unto them that are defiled 
and unbelieving is nothing pure." Why so? Be- 
cause both their mind and conscience are impure. 
How can that be? For they say they know God, 
but with works they deny it; for it is these that are 
abominable in the sight of God, etc. Observe how 
the apostle paints them in horrible colors, and how 
he denounces the great Jewish saints. For, take 
as an example a Carthusian monk, who thinks, if 
he lives after his strict rule, in obedience, in pov- j 
erty, unmarried, cut off from the world, he is in ' 
every respect pure. What else is that than their I 
own way of thinking, aside from, the word of God 
and faith, originating in their owi! heart? In this 
way they consider themselves alone pure, and other] 


"people impure. That St. Paul calls au impure 
miud, that is, everything that they think and im- 

Since now this notion and thinking is impure, 
everything that they do accordingly must also be 
impure for them, and as their mind is so is also 
their conscience, so that, though they should and 
could be useful to other people, they have a con- 
science that takes its hue from their way of think- 
ing and is tied up with their hoods, cloisters and 
rules: they think if for a minute they should ne- 
glect this routine to serve th^ir neighbor and have 
anything to do with others, they would have com- 
mitted the most heinous sin and have quite polluted 
themselves. That all conies of not recognizing the 
word of God and his creatures, although as St. 
Paul says, "with their mouths they profess that 
they do." For if they knew how and for what 
purpose they had been created by God, they would 
not despise these callings in society, nor set up so 
highly their own standard, but they would ac- 
knowledge these as the works and creatures of God 
to be pure, and would honor them, and themselves 
gladly abide in them and be helpful to their neigh- 
bor. That would then be to recognize God aright, 
both in his word and in his creatures, and to keep 
pure both heart and conscience, which thus be- 
lieves and reasons: What God does and orders, 
that must be pure and good, for he makes nothing 


impure, and sanctifies everythino^ tlirongli the word 
that he has affixed to all callings and creatures. 

Therefore guard yourself against all your own ., 
thoughts, if you wish to be pure before God, and j 
see to it that your heart is established and fixed 
upon the word of God, then you are pure over and 
above all Carthusians and saints in the world. 
When I was young, they gloried in this proverb: 
Love to be alone and your heart will stay puie; 
and they quoted in proof a saying of St. Bernard, 
who said whenever he was among the people he 
befouled himself — as we read in the lives of the 
fathers of a hermit, who would not have any one 
come near him or talk with anybody, and said: 
"The angels cannot come to him who moves 
among men." We read also of two others who 
would not let their mother see them; and as she 
often watched her opportunity and once took them 
by surprise, they presently closed the door and left 
her standing without a long while weeping, until 
they finally persuaded her to go away and wait 
until they would see each other in a future life. 

Behold, that was called a noble deed, and the 
height of sanctity and most perfect purity. But 
what was it? There is the word of God : "Thou 
shalt honor thy father and thy mother." Had they 
regarded that as holy and pure, they would have 
shown their mother and their neighbor all honor, 
love and friendship: on the contrary, following 


their own notions and self-chosen holiness, they 
cnt themselves off from them, and by their very 
attempt to be the purest they most shamefully de- 
filed themselves before God ; just as though the 
most desperate scoundrels could not have such 
thouohts and put on such an appearance that one 
would have to say: "These are living saints, they 
can despise the world and hold intercourse only 
with spirits;" — yes, with spirits from the bottom of 
hell. The angels like nothing better, than when 
we familiarly handle the word of God ; with such 
they love to dwell. Therefore let the angels be 
undisturbed up there in heaven, and look for them 
here below, upon earth, in your neighbor, father 
and mother, child and others, that you may do to 
them what God has commanded, and the angels 
will not be far away from you. 

I speak thus, that one may learn in this matter 
of purity to order himself aright, and not go so far 
to hunt for it as the monks do, who have thrown 
it quite out of the world and stuck it in a corner 
or into a hood; all of which is stench and filth, 
and the true harboring-place of the devil ; but let 
it be where God has placed it, namely in the heart 
that clings to God's word, and uses its calling and 
all creatures in accordance therewith, in such a 
way that both the entire purity of faith toward God 
is. embraced therein, also outwardly shown in this 
life, and everything is done in obedience to the 


word and command of God, whether it be bodily 
clean or unclean. So I have said above, con- 
cerning a judge who has to condemn a man to 
death, and thus shed blood and pollute himself 
with it, which a monk holds to be an abominably 
unclean deed ; but the Scripture calls this serving 
God; as St. Paul, Rom. xiii. 1-4, calls "the 
higher powers" that "bear the sword," "the 
minister of God ;' ' and it is not their work and com- 
mand but his, that he lays upon them and demands 
from them. Now you have the meaning of a 
pure heart that acts in accordance with the clean 
and pure word of God. 

What is however their reward, or what does he 
promise them ? It is this, that they shall see God. 
A glorious title and a splendid treasure! But what 
does it mean to see God ? The monks have here 
again their dreams, that it means to sit in the cells 
and meditate heavenward, and lead a contempla- 
tive life — so they call it, and have written many 
books about it. But it will never do to call that 
seeing God, when you come harping on your own 
notions and scrambling heavenward ; as the soph- 
ists and our factious spirits and crazy saints insist 
upon measuring and mastering God and his word 
and works by their own brains: but it is this, 'if" 
thou hast a true faith that Christ is thy Saviour, 
etc. , then thou seest at once that thou hast a gra- 
cious God. For faith leads thee up, and opens for 


thee the heart and will of God, where thou behold- 
est nothing but superabundant grace and love. 
That is exactly what it means, to see God, not with 
bodily eyes, (for with these no one can see him in 
this life,) but with faith, that beholds his paternal, 
friendl)' heart, in which there is no wrath or dis- 
favor. For he who regards him as wrathful, does 
not see him aright, but has drawn a veil and cover, 
yes, a dark cloud, over his face. But to behold his 
face, as the Scripture expresses it, means to recog- 
nize him aright as a gracious, benevolent father, 
upon whom one can rely for everything good ; and 
this comes only through faith in Christ, 

Accordingly also, if thou livest in thy calling 
after the word and command of God, with thy 
husband, wife, child, neighbor and friend, thou 
canst see what is the mind of God in regard to 
these relations, and canst conclude that he is 
pleased, as that is not thine own dream, but his 
word and command, that never belies or deceives 
us. Now it is a most excellent thing, and a 
treasure above all that one can think or wish, to 
know that one is standing and living aright 
towards God: in such a way, that not only the 
heart can comfort itself with the assurance of his 
grace and glory in it, but that one can know that 
his external walk and conversation is pleasing in 
his sight; whence it follows that he can cheerfully 
and heartily do and suffer everything and let noth- 


ing alarm or dishearten him. None of these 
things can they do who do not have this faith and 
a pure heart that is guided only by God's word; 
as all the monks have openly taught that no man 
can know whether he is in a gracious state or not; 
and it serves them just right, that, because they de- 
spise faith and real godly works, and seek a purity 
of their own devising, they must never see God, 
nor know how they stand with him. 

For if you ask some one, who has most diligently 
observed his hours for prayer, held his masses daily, 
and fasted, whether he is sure too that God is 
pleased with this, he must say he does not know 
that, and is doing it all at a venture; if it succeeds, 
let it succeed. It is not possible for any one to say 
anything else. For no one can boastingly say: 
God gave me this hood, or ordered me to wear it; 
he commanded me to hold this mass, etc. We 
have all been groping in this blindness hitherto, 
when we were doing so many so-called good works, 
making contributions, fasting, praying rosaries, 
and yet we never dared to say: This work is well 
pleasing to God; I am sure of this, and will die 
upon it. Therefore no one can say that in all his 
doing and living he has ever seen God. Or if any 
one should presumptuously glorify such works, and 
think that God must regard them favorably and 
reward them, that would mean seeing not God, but 
the devil in place of God. For there is no word of 




God for that, but it is all devised by men, grown 
out of their own hearts. Therefore it can never- 
more make any heart sure or satisfied, but it re- 
mains hidden under presumption until the last 
hour comes, when it all vanishes and drives into 
despair, and so it never comes to pass that one sees 
the face of God. 

But he who lays hold upon the word of God and 
abides in the faith, can maintain his stand before 
God and look upon him as his gracious Father, and 
need not fear that God is standing behind him with 
a club; is sure that God is looking graciously and 
smilingly upon him, together with all the angels 
and saints in heaven. See, that is what Christ 
means by this word, that only those behold God 
who have this pure heart; whereby he cuts off and 
sets aside all other sorts of purity, so that, where 
this kind is not, although otherwise everything be 
pure in a man, it avails nothing before God, and 
Ihe can never see God. On the other hand, if the 
liheart is pure, everything is pure, and it matters 
lUot if outwardly everything be impure, yes, even 
;if the body is full of sores, scabs and leprosy all 

V. 9. Blessed are the peacemakers ; for they shall be called 
the children of God. 

, Here the Lord honors with a high title and ex- 
' cellent praise those who find pleasure in diligently 


"oA'ing to make peace, not only so far as they are 
themselves concerned, but also among other people! 
that they may help to settle ugly and tangled disK 
putes, endure contention, guard against and pre- 
vent war and bloodshed; which is indeed a great 
virtue, but very rare in the world and among the 
sham saints. For those who are not Christians 
are both liars and murderers, like their father, the 
devil. Therefore they serve no other purpose than 
to create strife, contention, war, etc. ; as we now 
find among the priests, bishops and princes hardly 
anything but bloodhounds, who by many tokens 
have abundantly shown, that there is nothing they 
would rather see than that we should all swim in 
blood. Thus, if a prince becomes angry, he thinks 
at once that he must begin a war; then he inflames 
and incites everybody, until there has been so 
much warring and shedding of blood that he begins 
to be sorry for it, and gives a thousand ducats for 
the souls of those that were slain. These are noth- 
ing but bloodhounds; they cannot rest until they 
have taken vengeance and sated their rage, until 
they have dragged their land and people into 
wretchedness and misery; and yet they want to be 
called Christian princes and have a good cause. 

There is more needed to begin a war than that 
you have a good cause. For although we are not / 
forbidden here to carry on a war, as above said, 
that Christ here does not mean to detract anything 


from the powers that be and their official authoru^ 
but is teaching only individual people who wish to 
lead for themselves a Christian life ; yet it is not 
right that a prince determines to have a war with his 
neighbor, even though (I say) he has a good cause 
and his neighbor is in the wrong ; but the meaning 
is ; Blessed are the peacemakers ; so that he who 
wants to be a Christian and a child of God, not 
only does not begin war and strife, but helps and 
advises for peace, wherever he can, although there 
was reason and cause enough for going to war. It 
is enough, if one has tried his best for peace and 
all avails nothing, that one acts on the defensive, 
to protect land and people. Therefore not Chris- 
tians, but the children of the devil are those to be 
called, the quarrelsome fellows, who rush to their 
rapiers and jerk their sword from its sheath for a 
word ; still more, however, those who now perse- 
cute the gospel, and cause its preachers to be inno- 
cently burned or murdered, who have done them 
no harm, but only good, and have served them with 
body and soul. But of these we say nothing now, 
but of those only who maintain that they are right 
and have a good cause, and think that they, as high 
and princely persons, ought not to suffer, although 
other people would suffer. 

It is also meant here, if injustice and violence 
are done to you, that it is not right for you to con- 
sult your own foolish head, and begin right away 


'o take vengeance and strike back ; but you are to 
tjihink over it and try to bear it and have peace. 
V.f that will not answer, and you cannot endure it, 
.)-ou have law and governmental authority in the 
•jand, where you can seek relief in a regular way. 
For the powers that be are ordained to guard 
against this injustice and punish it. Therefore he 
who injures you, sins not only against you, but 
rather against the authority itself, for the order 
and command to keep the peace was given to it 
and not to you. Therefore let your judge, whose 
business it is, avenge and punish this, for against 
him your opponent has done the wrong. If you, 
however, take vengeance into your own hands, 
you do still greater wrong, for you make yourself 
guilty of the same sin as he who sins against the 
powers that be, and interferes with their office ; and ) 
by so doing you put your own good cause in the / 
wrong. For the common saying is: "He who 
strikes back is in the wrong, and striking back' 
makes a quarrel," 

Notice now this is one thing that Christ here 
demands against the revengeful and uproarious; 
and he calls those peacemakers, in the first place, 
who help to make peace among the people, as 
pious princes, counselors or jurists, and persons in 
• authority, who hold their governmental position 
for the sake of peace. In the second place, pious 
citizens and neighbors, who by their salutary good 


counsel adjust, harmonize and settle coutentioiV, 
strife (that has been occasioned by bad, poisonou 
tongues) between husband and wife, or anion; ^ 
neighbors; as St. Augustine boasted of his mother ? 
Monica, that when she saw two at outs she alway^ » 
spoke the best on both sides, and whatever of good' 
she heard about the one party that she brought to 
the other, but whatever of evil she heard that sh<t 
kept quiet, or mildened it as much as she could, and 
thus she often effected a reconciliation. For it is 
among the women particularly that the shameful 
vice of slander is prevalent, often so that great 
trouble is occasioned through an evil tongue. To 
this those bitter and poisonous brides of the devil 
largely contribute, who if they hear a word about 
anybody give it a point and edge, and intense bit- 
terness against others, so that sometimes wretched- 
ness and murder are the result. 

This all comes from the fact that there is natur- 
/Qlly sticking to us the shameful, devilish filth, that 
every one likes to hear and tell the worst about his 
/neighbor, and is tickled if he sees a fault in some 
) one else. If a woman were as beautiful as the sun, 
/ and had any mark or little spot upon her body, one 
I should forget everything else and look only for the 
*^ spot, and talk about that. So, if some one were the 
most renowned for honor and virtue, yet a poison- 
ous tongue shall come along and say she had been 
seen once laughing with somebody, and so defame 


her as to eclipse all her praise and honor. Such 
are real poisonous spiders that can suck nothing 
but poison out of a beautiful, lovely rose, and ruin 
both the flower and the sap, whilst a little bee 
sucks nothing but honey out of it and leaves the 
roses uninjured. 

That is the way those act, who discern nothing 
in other people, unless there is something faulty or 
impure in them, which they can blame; on the 
other hand, what there is good in them, they do 
not see; for men have many virtues which the 
devil cannot destroy, and yet he hides or defaces 
them that they shall not be seen. So, in the case 
of a woman, though she be very full of faults and 
have no other virtue, yet she is a creature of God, 
and can at least carry water and wash clouts; and 
there is no person upon earth so bad that there is not 
something in him that one must praise. How is it, 
then, that we leave out of view the good and feast 
our eyes upon what is impure, as if we took delight 
(by your leave) in looking only at a man's behind, 
when God himself has covered the uncomely parts 
of the body, and (as Paul says, i Cor. xii. 24) 
"has given more abundant honor to that part 
which lacked?" And we are such a filthy set, 
that we seek only after that which is dirty and 
stinks, and wallow in it like hogs. 

See, those too are real children of the devil, 
who himself gets his name from doinof that, so that 


he is called diabohis^ that is, a disgracer and reviler, 
who finds his pleasure in this, that he puts us most 
completely to shame, and embitters us among our- 
selves, so that he may occasion only murder and 
misery, and allow no peace or concord between 
brethren and neighbors, husband and wife. 

I once heard of a case of this kind, of two mar- 
ried persons who lived together in such love and 
harmony that they were the town's talk, and when 
the devil could not hinder this in any way, he sent 
an old hag to the woman, who told her that her 
husband was going with another woman and meant 
to kill her; she thus embittered her heart against 
her husband, and advised her to conceal a knife 
about her person, that she might get ahead of him. 
When she had accomplished this, she went to the 
husband and told him the same about her, that she 
meant to murder him, and in proof of it (said she) 
he would find at night a knife beside her in bed. 
That he then found, and cut off her head with it. 
'Whether this be true or not, it shows at all events 
what wicked, poisonous tongues can do, even be- 
tween those who heartily love each other, so that 
they may properly be called devil's-mouths or 
female devils, as he, the devil, diabolus, signifies 
nothing else than a bitter, poisonous, evil mouth. 
' Therefore be on your guard against such as 
these, that you pay no attention to them, and learn 
to put the best construction upon, or even to con- 


ceal, what you hear about your neighbor, so that 
you may make and keep peace and harmony; then 
you can be called with all honor a child of God be- 
fore all the world and the angels in heaven. You 
should let yourself be drawn and attracted by this 
honor — yes, you should run after it, if that were 
possible for you, even to the end of the world, and 
gladly give for it all that 5'ou have. Now you 
have it here offered to you and spread before you 
for nothing, do not need to do or give anything for 
it, except that if you want to be a child of God, 
that you also show yourself to be that, and do the 
works of your Father towards your neighbor. For ^^ 
thus has our Lord Christ done for us when he re- 
conciled us to the Father and secured his favor, 
and still daily intercedes for us and pleads our 
cause. Do thou likewise, that thou mayest be a 
pacificator and mediator between thy neighbors, and 
carry the best to both sides, but withhold the bad, 
that the devil has inspired, or explain it as well as / 
you can. If you come to Margaret, do as was said 
of Monica, the mother of Augustine, and say: O, 
dear M., why are you so bitter? .She surely don't 
mean it ill; I see nothing else about her but that 
she would like to be your dear sister, etc. In like 
manner, if you meet with Catharine, do the same 
with her. Then as a true child of God you would 
have effected on both sides a peace, as far as you 



But if yon will or must speak of the evil, then do 
^/'\ as Christ has taught you. Do not carry it to 
others, but go to him who has done the wrong and 
exhort him to do better; not in such a way that 
you make a display of it when you come, and ex- 
pose the person concerned; that you speak when 
you should be silent, and be silent when you should 
speak. This is one and the first way that you 
should deal alone between yourself and your neigh- 
bor. If, however, you must tell it to others, if the 
other course does not answer, then tell it to those 
whose duty it is to punish, father and mother, mas- 
ter or mistress, burgomaster and judge, etc. That 
is the right and regular course to pursue, that what 
is wrong may be done away or punished. Other- 
wise, if you spread it among other people, the per- 
son remains unbenefited, and the evil unrebuked, 
and will besides be reported abroad by yourself and 
others, so that it will be on everybody's tongue. 
Notice how a pious physician does with a sick 
child ; he does not run about among the people and 
herald it abroad, but he goes to the child and exam- 
ines his pulse, or whatever is necessary, not that he 
may gratify his pleasure at the child's expense, or 
make fun of him, but with the good and kind inten- 
tion of helping him. So we read of the holy patri- 
arch Joseph, Gen. xxxvii. 2, 10, who was with his 
brothers, by the cattle, and when they were badly 
reported of, he went and told it to their father, as 


their master, in whose place it was to look into the 
matter and punish them, for they would not hear 

But you may say: Why then do you yourself 
publicly attack the pope and others, and do not 
keep the peace? Answer: One must advise and 
help all he can for peace, and keep silence as 
well as he can. But, when the sin is public, and 
becomes too widel)^ spread, or does public injury 
(as the pope's teaching), then it is no longer right 
to be silent, but to protest and rebuke, especially 
for me and others, who are in public office, whose 
duty it is to teach and warn ev^erybody. For the 
command and duty has been laid upon me, as a 
preacher and doctor, who am to watch that no one 
is misled, so that I may give account of this at the 
last judgment. So St. Paul, Acts xx. 28, com- 
mands the preachers, that they are to watch and 
guard the whole flock against the wolves that 
would appear among them, etc. So it becomes me 
to rebuke those who sin publicly, that they may 
do better, just as a judge must publicly convict and 
punish the evil-doers by virtue of his office. For 
we have said it often enough that Christ is not 
speaking here of a public office, but of all Christians 
in ge;ieral, according as we are all alike before God. 

V. 10. Blessed are they zvhich are persecuted for righteotistiess'' 
saki\ tt'' theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

IsecH'e said above that these statements and 

8o i^uther's commentary on the 

promises must all be understood as matters of 
faith, and as said concerning things that are not 
seen nor heard, and they have no reference to out- 
ward appearances. For how can those be said to 
be prosperous and blessed outwardly who are poor 
and mourn, and besides must suffer all sorts of 
persecution, which things the whole world and 
reason call adversity, and which they teach to 
avoid? Therefore whoever wants to have the 
blessedness and the good things that Christ here 
speaks of, he must lift up his heart above all senses 
and reason, and not judge himself by his feelings, 
but must argue thus: Am I poor, then am I not 
poor. Poor I am outwardly, according to the flesh, 
but before God in faith I am rich. So, when he 
feels sad, dejected and worried, he must not judge 
accordingly and say he is an unhappy man, but he 
must turn about and say: I feel sadness, indeed, 
misery and inward sorrow, but nevertheless I am 
blessed, cheerful and comfortably wfixed upon the 
word of God, Just the opposite of this is the case, 
too, in the world, so that those who are called rich 
and happy are not so. For Christ utters his woe 
against them, and calls them unhappy, although it 
appears as if they were well off and succeeding 
admirably. Therefore they should raise their 
thoughts above riches and a good time which the"^' 
are enjoying, and should say: I am indeed ric^j^^ id 
live in the midst of enjoyment, but alas for J?|^e,f I 


have nothing else than this! For amid all this 
there must assuredly be abundant misery, wretch- 
edness and sorrow, that will overtake me before I 
am aware of it. The same is true of all these say- 
ings, that every one of them has a different aspect 
before the world from that it wears according to 
these words. 

Now we have hitherto treated nearly all the parts 
of a Christian mode of living and the spiritual 
fruits of faith in these two aspects: First, as to his 
person, that he is poor, sad, miserable, suffers want 
and hunger, and along with this, towards others 
is a useful, beneficent, merciful, peaceable man, 
and does .nothing but good works. Here he now 
adds the last, how he is treated for all this — that 
although he is full of good works, even towards 
enemies and evil men, he must get this reward 
from the world, that he is persecuted, and lose 
body, life and everything for it. 

Therefore, if you wish to be a Christian, con- 
sider this well, that you may be unterrified, and not 
on that account become out of heart and impatient, 
but be cheerful and content with it all, and know 
that you are not badly off when this happens to 
you. For the same thing happened to himself and 
all the saints, (as is soon hereafter stated,) and to 
those who wish to be Christians it is for this rea- 
son thus foretold, that they shall and must suffer 
persecution. Therefore you must make your 


choice. You have two ways open before you, 
either towards heaven and eternal life, or towards 
hell; either with Christ or with the world. But 
you must know this: If you live so that you will 
have a good time here, and no persecution, then 
you will not get to heaven with Christ, and the 
converse; and you must, in short, either let Christ 
and heaven go, or choose this, that you will suffer 
all manner of persecution and evil treatment in the 
world. In a word, he who will have Christ, must 
forfeit personal ease, life, goods, honor, the favor 
of the world, and not be frightened at contemptu- 
ous treatment, ingratitude or persecution. The 
reason is this: The devil is a wicked, wrathful 
spirit, and neither can nor will endure it that a man 
enters the kindom of God. If any one undertakes 
to do this, he throws himself in his way, and stirs 
up and tries all the opposition against him that he 

Therefore, if von wish to be a child of God, get 

!. . 

ready for persecution, as the wise man says, and 

Paul in 2 Tim. iii. 12: "All that will live godly in 
Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." x\lso Christ 
himself: "The disciple is not above his Master. 
Have they persecuted me? they will also persecute 
you;" It cannot be otherwise, therefore it is said: 
"Blessed are those that are persecuted for right- 
eousness' sake;" so that one may know with what 
to console himself For otherwise it is a trying, 


unhappy condition, outwardly viewed, and has a 
bad influence, to be sitting constantly in bodily 
and pecuniary danger. But when faith takes hold,, 
he can lift himself above it all and think: Now\ 
Christ has nevertheless said that I am blessed and 
well off. Because he has said it, I let this be my 
comfort and it gives me great delight. The word 
shall enlarge my heart — yea, make it greater than / 
heaven and earth. For what are all that persecute 
me contrasted with this man or his word ? Is it 
one or two that are persecuting us? Those who 
are on our side, who encourage, console: and con- 
gratulate us, are many more, yes ten thousand 
angels to one of them, together with all the saints, 
who side with Christ and God himself. Therefore 
we must not let this word lie so cold and simple, 
but inflate it well and magnify it, and set it in op- 
position to all persecution ; thus we will see and 
learn that all our suffering is to be despised as 
nothing at all, in contrast with this great consola- 
tion and eternal blessing. 

But he adds significantly this expression: "for 
righteousness' sake ; " to show that it is not enough 
to be persecuted if this be wanting. For the 
devil and bad people must also endure persecution, 
and one scoundrel often quarrels with another, and 
they are not mutually friendly ; as one murderer 
perseautes another, a Turk makes war upon a 
Tartar, but these are not for that reason happy ; 

84 LUTHER'S com:\ikntary on the 

but it is true only of those who are persecuted for 
righteousness' sake; as also Peter, i Pet. iv. 15, 
says : "Let no one among you suffer as a murderer, 
or thief, or evil-doer," etc. Therefore it all 
amounts to nothing for any one without this [i. e. , 
righteousness] to boast and make an ado about 
great suffering ; as the graceless monks have misled 
the poor people whom they have led out to punish- 
ment for their evil-doing, and have told them for 
their comfort that they were paying for their sin 
by their death. But do you beware of the death 
that is t© atone for your sin. For this belongs to 
the bottom of hell. There must first be righteous- 
ness and the death of Christ the Lord. 
/ r Therefore see to it, that you have in the first 
place a real divine cause for the sake of which you 
must suffer persecution, and are really sure of it, 
: so that your conscience can safely rest upon it, even 
if the whole world were opposed to you. There- 
fore, first of all, the word of God must be confidently 
and firmly grasped, so that no doubt or hesitation 
can arise from that source, x\s, if now the em- 
peror, bishops or princes wanted to forbid married 
life, liberty to eat, using both forms in the sacra- 
ment, etc., and would persecute you on that ac- 
count : then you must see to it, that your heart is 
sure of the matter and firmly convinced that the 
word of God has made these things free and* unfor- 
bidden, yes, commands us to make a serious matter 


of them and stake even life upon them. Thus you 
can confidently say : this cause is not mine, but it is 
that of my Lord Christ. For I have not concocted 
it out of my own head, nor have I undertaken or 
begun it of my own accord, or at the advice or sug- 
gestion of any one else ; but I have received it from 
the mouth of Christ, brought down and announced 
from heaven, who never belies or deceives me, but 
is himself pure truth and righteousness. Upon the 
word of this man I will venture to suffer, to do and 
leave undone whatever is befitting, and his word, 
by itself, shall avail more to comfort and strengthen 
my heart, than the raging and threatening of all 
devils and of the world can avail to terrify me. 

For what does it amount to, if a prince or em- 
peror is foolishly furious in his rage, and threatens 
with sword, fire or the gallows, if my Saviour on 
the contrary, friendly communes with my heart 
and comforts me with these assurances that I am 
blessed, and in hearty sympathy with my God in 
heaven, and all the heavenly host and holy beings 
call me blessed? If my heart and mind are in 
such a state that I can sufier for the sake of his 
word and work, why should I allow myself to be 
frightened by these wretched people, who indeed 
rage and foam in hostility against God, but who 
suddenly vanish like smoke or like poor soap-bub- 
bles? As the prophet Isaiah says, li, 12 sq. : "I, 
even I, am he that comforteth you : who art thou. 


that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall 
die, and of the son of man which shall be made as 
grass ; and forge ttest the Lord thy Maker, that hath 
stretched forth the heavens and laid the founda- 
tions of the earth," etc., that is, he is everlasting 
and almighty who comforts thee and has pleasure 
in thee : when they all shall have vanished he will 
still be sitting above there, and thou too. Why 
will you then care more for the threatening and 
fuming of a miserable, stinking maggot-bag, than 
for this divine consolation and approbation ? You 
should rather thank God, and be heartily glad of 
it, that you are worthy to suffer thus, as the apos- 
tles went forth (Acts v. 41) "rejoicing that they 
were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." 
See, are we not now highly blessed with these 
words, if we only accept it with loving gratitude? 
for there is no lack of persecution. And we have 
along with it the great advantage, that our ene- 
mies themselves cannot condemn our cause, and 
must confess (no thanks to them for it) that it is 
right and the truth ; but there is this wanting in 
the matter, that we should teach it, for they will 
not learn or accept from us, what has never hap- 
pened or been heard of before. Therefore, what 
we suffer on this account is a holy, blessed suffer- 
ing, as they must themselves bear witness, and it 
is now no longer a human, but a real devilish per- 
secution, so that they say we must and shall not 


call it the word of God, but must hold our tongue 
and not preach, unless we first go and fall at the 
feet of the Pope, and submit to be judged as it may 
please him and his minions. 

Therefore let us suffer, so much the more wil- 
lingly and joyfully, everything that they can do 
against us, because we have the strong, sure con- 
solation, and great, glorious satisfaction, that our 
teaching and cause are confirmed by their own! 
mouth ; besides that, we hear in this place the ex-| 
cellent charming promise that we shall be well 
rewarded in heaven, and are to rejoice and exult in l\ 
this, as those who do not need to look forward to 
heaven, but have it already ; and they with their 
persecuting only the more help us thitherward, yes, 
actually drive us toward heaven. Now see, whether 
these simple, short words cannot give as much 
courage as the whole world can do, and inspire 
more comfort and joy than all the suffering and tor- 
ment that our enemies can inflict upon us ; if we 
do not hastily skim over them, but heartily appro- 
priate them and duly consider them. 

This we have to say as to the persecution that is 
carried on by actual violence and affects person or 
property, when Christians are seized and tortured, 
burned, hanged and massacred ; as happens now, 
and has happened heretofore. Beyond this there is 
another kind of persecution which is called defama- 
tion, disgracing, putting to shame, which concerns 


our honor and good name, in which way Christians 
above all others have to suffer. Of this Christ now 
further treats. 

V. II. Blessed arc ye, when men shall revile you, and perse- 
cute you, and shall say all maimer of evil against you falsely, 
for my sake. 

This is also a great, severe persecution, and (as 
above said) the real suffering of Christians, that 
they are most bitterly and poisonously slandered 
and defamed. For, although other people too 
must suffer persecution, so that they are violently 
and unjustly treated ; yet men are satisfied with al- 
lowing them to retain their honor and good name. 
This is therefore still no real Christian suffering. 
For to this it is not enough that all manner of tor- 
tures and torments are imposed upon them ; but 
along with this their name must be most shame- 
fulh- spit upon and slandered, so that the world 
loudly boasts, when it murders the Christians, that 
it has executed the worst scoundrels, whom the 
earth could no longer carry, and that it has done 
God the greatest and most acceptable service, as 
Christ says, John xvi. 2 ; so that there is no name 
upon earth so slandered and disgraced as that of a 
Christian, and no people so bitterly opposed and 
attacked by such malicious, poisonous tongues as 
the Christians. 

They are showing this now thoroughly in their 
treatment of the dear gospel and its preachers, by 


such slanderous abuse, lying, deception, evil arti- 
fices, and malicious misrepresentations, that one 
would rather die ever so often than endure these 
poisonous, malicious darts. Here comes the Pope 
hurling his thunderbolts and damning us under 
nine hells, as children of the very worst devil. In 
like manner his hangers-on, bishops and princes, 
are raging and roaring with such an abominable 
vilifying and reviling as to strike one through and 
through, so that one would at last have to become 
weary, and be no longer able to endure it, if we 
had not a stronger and mightier consolation than 
all their malice and rage amounts to. Therefore 
we let them rage and defame, that they may plague 
themselves and have the scorching misery with 
their poisonous insatiable hatred and envy. But 
we are well satisfied and in good spirits. If they 
are determined to be very angry and. rage, we can, 
on the other hand, laugh and be cheerful. 

Therefore I say again: Let him who wants to be 
a Christian know that he must expect to suffer such 
persecution from poisonous, wicked, slanderous 
tongues, especially where they can do nothing with 
their fists, that he may let all the world sharpen 
their tongues upon him, and aim at him, sting and 
strike him, and he on the other hand only defiantly 
despise all this, and besides laugh in God's name, 
and let them rage in the name of their god, the 
devil, in the comfortable assurance (as above said) 


that our cause is right, aud is God's own, which 
they must themselves confirm, although they in- 
deed condemn us, and yet say it is the truth; be- 
sides, our heart and conscience before God are as- 
sured that we are teaching aright. For we are not 
teaching out of our own head and reason or wis- 
dom, nor are we seeking our own advantage, prop- 
erty or honor thereby before the world; but we 
preach and praise only God's word and his doings. 
On the other hand they, our enemies, glory in 
nothing but their own works, merits and holiness, 
and us, who do not practice these things with them, 
they persecute on that account. For they do not 
persecute us as if we were adulterers, robbers or 
thieves, etc. ; they can indeed tolerate amongst 
them the most desperate scoundrels and villains ; 
but they raise a terrible hue and cry, because we 
will not approve their doctrine and life, and praise 
only the gospel, Christ, faith and really good works, 
and thus suffer not for ourselves, but everything for 
the sake of Christ the Lord. Therefore we will 
sing the whole tune with them, and we will show 
them that our head is harder than theirs. For, 
in a word, they must let the man alone, whether 
-they like it or not. 

V. 12. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is yoior reward 
in heaven. 

These are surely sweet, comforting words, that 
ouofht to make our heart cheerful and courasreous 


against all sorts of persecution. Ought one not to 
regard as dearer and of more account the word and 
consolation of the dear Lord, than that of an impo- 
tent maggot-bag, or the raging, threatening, ex- 
communicating, cursing and thundering of the 
abominable Pope, even if he were to pour out upon 
us the very dregs and whole hell of his wrath and 
cursing, like a cloudburst ; because I hear that 
Christ my Lord is so heartily pleased, and orders me 
to be myself happy along with it, besides he prom- 
ises me such an excellent reward, that the kingdom 
of heaven shall be mine and everything that Christ 
has, along with all saints and all Christendom; in 
short, such a treasure and consolation that I ought 
not to exchange it for all the world's possessions, 
joy and music, although every leaf and blade of 
grass were a tongue that sang my praises. For 
here it is not a Christian that calls one blessed, yes, 
not an angel, but the Lord of all the angels, at 
whose feet both they and all creatures must fall 
and offer supplication. Therefore they, along with 
all other creatures, even the very leaves and grass, 
must cheerfully join in singing about me and danc- 
ing in my praise. 

And what on the other hand are they who slan- 
der and curse me but mere nits and lousy fellows 
(pardon the expression), yes, much more infamous 
than can be told. Even if all creatures, the leaves 
and blades of grass in the forest, and the grains of 


sand along- the sea-shore, were so many tongnes to 
rebnke and annihilate them, what would all that 
be in contrast with the single word of this man? 
For his voice sounds so clearly that heaven and 
earth must be filled and resound with it, whilst on 
the other hand the slobbery, hoarse scratching and 
coughino- of his enemies are no longer heard. 

See, thus we ought to learn a little how to use 
and take advantage of these words, that do not 
stand here in vain, but were spoken and written 
to strengthen and comfort us, with which he as 
our dear Master and faithful Shepherd or Bishop, 
equips us to be un terrified and well prepared to suf- 
fer, if they impose upon us all manner of torment 
and misfortune for his sake, both by words and 
deeds, and that we may despise all that is offensive 
to us, and condemn it despite our reason and heart. 

For, if we are led by our own thoughts and feel- 
ings, we have a hard time of it, and it hurts that one 
should serve, help, advise and benefit the world and 
everybody, and get no thanks for it but the very 
worst, most bitter hatred, and cursed, poisonous 
tongues, so that, if flesh and blood were to rule 
here, it would soon say: If I am to get nothing 
else for this, then let who will cling to the gospel 
and be a Christian, and let the devil henceforth 
help the world, if it will have it so. Hence too 
everybody is now complaining and crying — the 
gospel is making much discord, strife and disturb- 


ance in the world, and everything is worse since it 
has been published than it was before, when every- 
thing- moved along quietly, and there was no per- 
secution, and the people lived together as good 
friends and neighbors. 

But this is what it means: If you will not have 
the gospel or be a Christian, then go and be a 
worldling,, and nobody will persecute you, and you 
will be a friend of the world. But if you will have 
the gospel and Christ, then you must expect to 
have trouble, contention and persecution wherever 
you go. Reason: because the devil won't allow it 
to be otherwise, or cease to egg the people on 
against the gospel, so that all the world is incensed 
against it; just as now farmers, citizens, noblemen, 
princes and lords, who are hostile to the gospel from 
sheer wantonness, and do not themselves know 

Therefore I make this reply to these idle talkers 
and grumblers: There neither can nor ought to be 
a peaceful, quiet state of things. For how could it 
be so where the devil is ruling, and is a deadly 
enemy to the gospel? And this, indeed, not with- 
out reason, for it hurts him in his kingdom, so 
that he feels it; and if he would let it move on un- 
hindered, his kingdom would soon be totally de- 
stroyed. But if he is to resist and hinder it, then 
he must rally all his art and power, and stir up 
against it whatever he can. Therefore do not hope 


for any peace and quietness as long as Christ and 
his gospel are in the midst of the devil's kingdom. 
And woe upon the pleasant and comfortable time 
that used to be, and upon those who now wish to 
have it back again! For this is a sure sign that 
the devil is ruling wath great power, and no Christ 
is here; as I, alas! am concerned, lest it be so again, 
and the gospel be taken away from us Germans all 
too soon, which is what these noisy fellows are 
stru<2:o:lino^ for. 

But we have this assurance, that it is not our 
fault that things are not going right. For we 
wcdild be heartily glad if everything went right, 
and have done our part by teaching, exhorting, 
beseeching, entreating and yielding, even towards 
our enemies, offering them peace, and everything 
that we ought to do; yet we accomplish nothing, 
except that they persecute, slander and abuse us 
most shamefully, and cannot cease until they may 
cool their rage in our blood. As it will not there- 
fore be otherwise, we let them go on at last with 
their threatening, raging and defaming, and take 
to ourselves the comfort of which we have heard, 
assured, that they cannot accomplish what they 
desire unless they first have hurled Christ from 
heaven, and made him, with all that he has said, 
a liar. 

^^ For thus persecuted they the prophets that were before youy 

You are not alone (he means to say) in suflfering 


thus. Look about you and couut backward to all 
the holy fathers that ever lived before you, aud you 
will fiud that they were served the same way. What 
special treatmeut do you expect? Is he to chauge 
his plau ou your account? He had to suffer it in 
the case of his dear patriarchs and prophets, that 
they were persecuted and slain, besides being per- 
secuted and traduced by everybody, and made the 
mock of the world, as we see in the Scriptures, 
that it was a common proverb, if one wishes to 
name a prophet, one names for them a fool; as in 
the history of Jehu, 2 K. ix. ii, they said of a 
prophet: "Wherefore came this mad fellow to 
thee?" And Isaiah shows, Ivii. 4, how they 
"made a wide mouth and drew out the tongue" 
against him. But what did they gain thereby? 
For now the dear prophets and saints have honor 
and praise in all the world, and besides are ruling 
forever with Christ the Lord; but they are an 
abominable stench and are accursed. This you are 
to expect for yourselves (says Christ) assuredly, that 
you shall be rewarded as they are, only more abun- 
dantly and gloriously than you can believe, or even 
dare to desire. For you belong to the same com- 

See, this is surely an excellent, precious Preacher 
and faithful Master, who omits nothing that serves 
to strengthen and console, both byword and prom- 
ise, besides by the example and testimony of all the 


saints and of himself; and with this a<:^ree all the 
angels in heaven and all creatnres. What more, 
then, should we have and desire? Should we not 
in consideration of such consolation, for his sake 
patiently endure the wrath and insolence of the 
world and the devil? What would we do, if we 
had not a righteous divine cause, and such excel- 
lent assurances, and still had to suffer like other 
people who have no consolation? For it cannot be 
in the world that one need not suffer anything, and 
there must be (as above said) some suffering on 
account of the gospel, that the pious may thereby 
be tested and helped to their promised consolation, 
joy and blessedness; but the wicked and despisers 
or enemies of the gospel be punished and damned. 
Thus, now, has Christ hitherto prepared and in- 
structed his Christians, how they are to live and 
suffer in the world, and especially those who are 
to hold public office in the Church; although even 
aside from this, every Christian ought to be always 
ready to stand by himself, where it is necessary, to 
confess his Lord, and to represent his faith, and be 
always ready-armed against the world, the devil, 
the mob, and whatever may be arrayed against him. 
(^^Now he goes further, and means to commit to them 
the office, and teach them how to administer it; 
afterward also to lay upon their lips what and how 
they are to preach. For with these characteristics 
a Christian is entirely perfect if he personally lives 


right and suffers variously because of this, if he 
afterwards also properly administers his office, in 
which he is to serve and help others.. Thus he 
now adds: 

V. 13. Ve are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost 
his savor, ivhereivith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good 
for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of 

With the word salt he indicates (as above said) 
what their office is to be. For salt is not salt for 
itself; it cannot salt itself; but this is the use of it, 
that one salts meat with it, and other things needed 
in the kitchen, so that they retain their taste, re- 
main fresh, and do not decay. So, says he'. Ye are 
also salt; not that which belongs to the kitchen, 
but that with which this flesh, which is the whole 
world, may be salted. This is indeed a glorious 
office, and a great, excellent honor, that God 
should call them his salt, and adds, that they are 
to salt everything that is upon earth. But to be 
this a man is needed, who is ready, as Christ has 
hitherto taught, to be poor, wretched, thirsty, 
ineek, etc., and to suffer all kinds of persecution, 
reviling and defamation. If this be wanting, the 
man will never be a preacher who will do the riglit 
kind of salting, but he will be a savorless salt, that 
is of no manner of use. 

For it is asking a great deal, and heaping it on 
too heavily, that the poor fishermen or any poor 


despised man should be called before God a salt of 
the earth, and undertake to lay hold and salt 
everything that is of human kind upon earth. 
Reason and nature cannot do it; for it grows weary 
of it, and cannot bear that it must get from it only 
disgrace, shame and misfortune, and would soon 
say: Let the devil salt the world for me. Tliere- 
fore our holy fathers, bishops, monks and hermits 
have acted shrewdly in neglecting preaching and 
attending to otlier matters, or have withdrawn from 
intercourse with the people; for they saw that it costs 
too much to sit in constant danger of losing honor, 
property and life, and they thought, we will hand 
it over to others, and meanwhile creep into corn- 
ers and serve God, having a good time. Hence it 
is a difficult matter to be an apostle or preacher, 
and fill such an office; yes, impossible, judging ac- 
cording to flesh and blood. But there must be 
such people as do it willingly for the sake of God 
and Christ the Lord, who does not wish to force 
any one to it or drive him with commands. For 
to be a Christian demands a willing heart; he who 
does not heartily desire it had better let it alone. 

But our joyful and defiant confidence is this, 
when we are in trouble, the world and the devil 
looking askance at us, and doing us all the harm 
they can, that he says to us: Ye are the salt of the 
earth. When this word shines into the heart, so 
that a man can rely upon it, and be absolutely sure 


that he is God's salt, then let him be wrathful and 
malicious who will not laugh. I can be more con- 
fident and boast more upon his single word than 
they upon all their power, swords and guns. For 
because he recognizes me as being that, and gives 
the evidence of it through his word, all the angels 
in heaven, yes, sun and moon, together with all 
creatures, must confirm it and stand by us against 
the world and the devil. And even if that were 
not so, we would still have enough in his single 
word, that he thus names and baptizes us. That 
they must let stand; and we will surely be before 
them in honor as long as Christ and his word en- 

Now it is easy to understand how it is with this 
salting, namely, that one must stand up and say: 
everything that is born and lives upon earth, is of 
no account, it is rotten and corrupt before God. 
For, because he says bluntly and plainly, they shall 
be a salt of the earth, that is, as to everything 
that the world is; then it must follow, that every- 
thing that is in the world, and is called flesh, or 
mankind, must be rebuked and thoroughly salted, 
so that we condemn the sanctity, the wisdom and 
the divine worship of all the world, self-devised, 
aside from the word of God, as coming from the 
devil and belonging to the pit of hell, if it do not 
hold to Christ alone. 

This is then a harsh style of preaching; it makes 


US disagreeable to the world, and deserves that men 
get angry at us and strike us in the month. For 
the world could easily endure that we preach aright 
about Christ and all the articles of the faith; but if 
we want to lay hold of them and salt them by show- 
ing that their wisdom and sanctity are of no ac- 
count, yes, are blind and damned, this it cannot and 
will not endure, and it charges the preachers with 
not being able to do anything but scolding and 
biting; it blames us with having disturbed society 
and created discord, with having maligned the 
clergy and good works. 

But what can we do about it? If we are to salt, 
it must bite. And although they denounce us 
as biters, we know that it has to be so, and Christ 
has ordered this, and he means that the salt shall 
be sharp and bite away, as we shall hear. So St. 
Paul also does constantly; he rebukes the whole 
world and denounces all its living and acting, if 
there be no faith in Christ; and Christ says, John 
xvi. 8, "when the Holy Ghost comes, he shall re- 
prove the world of sin," etc., that is, he shall 
attack ever3-thing that he finds in the world, shall 
make no exception or difference, shall not rebuke 
some and praise others, or punish only thieves and 
scoundrels: but he will seize all, all in a mass, one 
with another, whether one be great, small, pious, 
wise, holy, or whatever he may be; in short, every- 
thing that is not Christ. For the Holy Ghost does 


not need to come into the world or send preachers 
into the world that he may exhibit and punish 
outwardly gross sins, adultery, murder, etc., which 
the world itself can very well know and punish; 
but that which it regards as the most precious, and 
in which it is at its best, claiming to be pious and 
holy, and meaning thereby to serve God. 

Therefore it is all wrong, that some now sophis- 
tically assert that it is enough that a preacher tell 
every one what is right, and simply preach the gos- 
pel, but that one dare not touch the Pope, the bish- 
ops, princes and other ranks or persons, whereby 
much discord and contention are occasioned; but 
the real meaning is: If you will preach the gospel 
and be of use to the people, you must be sharp and 
rub the salt into the wounds, that is, must show 
the opposite and rebuke what is not right, as n6w 
the mass, monkery, indulgences, etc., and every- 
thing that is connected with them, so that these 
scandals are removed and no one is thereby de- 
ceived. Therefore we must keep on here with our 
salting, that we may protest and leave no room for 
its coming back again or being sneakingly intro- 
duced; for this will happen, if the salting is not 
diligently kept up, as used to be the case in Chris- 
tendom, so that miserable rotten human teaching 
ruled and ruined everything ; which would not 
have been the case, if the salt had remained. For 
there would have been no lack of sound doctrine, 


because by the grace of God still the Scriptures, 
the gospel, the sacraments, the pulpits remained in 
the Church, if only the bishops and preachers had 
attended to this, and had employed these means for 
salting with them whatever is of the old Adam. 

Therefore Christ here exhorts and warns the dis- 
ciples so diligently that they see to it that this salt- 
ing is always attended to, and says: If the salt have 
lost his savor, wherewith shall it then be salted? 
Salt that has lost its savor means that which has 
lost its strength and sharpness, and no longer sea- 
sons or bites; that is, when the office in Christen- 
dom deteriorates so that one ceases to reprove the 
people, and does not show them their misery and 
their inability, nor insist upon repentance and self- 
knowledge, lets them live along as if they were 
pious and all right, and thus allows their wrong 
notions of self-righteousness and self-chosen wor- 
ship to prevail so long, until the true doctrine con- 
cerning faith is entirely wrecked, and Christ is lost, 
and things come to such a pass that there is no 
help for it. 

This he foresaw as here intimated, and he pre- 
dicted the future danger, even the injury and cor- 
ruption of Christendom, that this salting or official 
rebuking would be neglected, and instead of it 
there would arise a swarm of parties and sects, 
when every one would herald his own hobby as a 
true doctrine and worship, when all this is nothing 


else than worldy, carnal notions, originating in our 
own head and reason, wherewith we. tickle our- 
selves and thus actually rot in them, as in a mass 
of natural, stinking, rotten flesh, upon which salt- 
ing and rebuking are thrown away. 

From this you see how much importance is at- 
tached to this matter, so that Christ with good 
reason treats of it here, before all the rest, and 
commends it so earnestly. For without this 
Christendom cannot exist, and Christ cannot en- 
dure, nor can there be proper thinking or living: 
so that there is indeed no great injury or corruption 
of Christendom, except where the salt, wherewith 
everything else should be seasoned and salted, has 
lost its savor. And this happens so easily. For it 
is a poison of such a kind that it is pleasant to take, 
and exactly suits the old Adam. For he does not 
like to stand in such danger, risk life and limb or 
suffer persecution, disgrace and defamation. 

Hence our bishops and clergy are the shrewdest 
people upon earth, in this matter, (though they are 
not good enough to be called salt that has lost its 
savor, but are the very devil himself, for they do 
not at all attend to their bishop's office, but 
are themselves the greatest persecutors); for they 
preach in such a way, as to keep out of danger, 
and have money and property, besides honor and 
power; for whoever has to rebuke the world at large, 
emperors, kings, princes, wise men, learned men, 


and say that their way of living is damned before 
God, he must have his head taken off. But if I act 
the hypocrite before them, and say they are all 
right, then I go scot free, keep my favor and honor, 
etc., and meantime flatter. myself that I mean nev- 
ertheless along with this to preach the gospel. But 
despite all that, I have become salt that has lost its 
savor. For in that way I let the people stick in 
their own old crazy notion and carnality, so that 
they go to the devil, and I at the head of them. 

This ofBce thus encounters many temptations 
and hindrances, both on the right and left, so that 
many keep silence either through fear of the danger 
of harm and persecution, or for the sake of honor, 
property or enjoyment. Besides, we are weak, 
lazy and averse to this duty, so that we are easily 
led to neglect it, and grow weary, when we see 
that things do not go as we like, and it looks as 
though it were of no use, and the people act con- 
temptuously, yes, even become worse the more we 
rebuke them. 

Therefore we must be firmly set against all this, 
and have respect only to the command of Christ, 
who imposes this office upon us, and means that 
we are to open our mouths promptly, and rebuke 
what is to be rebuked; paying no attention to our 
own danger, inconvenience or advantage and en- 
joyment, neither to the malice and contempt of 
other people, and take comfort from the fact that 


te makes us his salt, and will support us in doing 
our duty. And he commands us confidently to 
salt, without giving heed to it or allowing our- 
selves to be alarmed about it, whether the world 
will not endure it, and consequently persecute us; 
nor are we to despair although, as we think, we 
are accomplishing nothing. For what he com- 
mands us to do, we should be pleased and satisfied 
with, and let him decide what and how much he 
may accomplish through us. If the people will 
not hear or accept it, we are nevertheless salt, and 
have done our official duty. Then we can with all 
honor and cheerfulness stand before the bar of God 
and testify that we have faithfully told every man 
his duty, and have stuck nothing under the bench, 
so that they have no excuse, as if they did not un- 
derstand, and it had not been told them. 

But those who allow themselves to be scared, and 
are silent for the sake of favor, honor or worldly 
good, they will have at the last day to hear it said 
of them: This was our preacher, and he did not 
tell us of it; and he will not excuse them, although 
they say: Lord, they would not hear. For Christ 
will say in reply: Do you not know that I com- 
manded you to salt, and diligently warned you to 
do it; ought you not to have feared my word more 
than them? This ought in all conscience to alarm 
us. For here you hear the sentence that he pro- 
nounces upon all such salt that has lost its savor, 
and says: 


V. 13. ''It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out 
and to be trodden underfoot of men." 

That is as much as to say: They shall not have 
a good time of it even here upon earth, but shall 
be completely rejected by Christ as those who no 
longer belong to him, and shall never be his 
preachers nor belong to Christendom, wholly cast 
out and robbed of all fellowship in heaven and with 
all saints; although they may retain the name, and 
are held in high honor by the people as the best 
preachers and holiest people upon earth; as was the 
case in the papacy at the time when it was the 
most pious and holy, (not as now, when it has 
grown to be a worldly imperialism and a spiritual 
devils' government,) when the pope himself 
preached and ruled the churches, and had every- 
thing admirably arranged, and brought under set- 
tled rules and regulations, (as St. Gregory did, and 
some before and after him,) which all the world 
held to be the best government, and the holiest 
form of worship that could be established upon 
earth, and yet it was all of no account. 

For there was no salt there, by which this should 
have been brought to the test of the word of God, 
and should have been rebuked, as being our own 
self-devised holiness ; but all the world praised 
and sanctioned it, and thus gave encouragement 
to those who were arrogantly presumptuous and 
trusted in it, as if they were leading a truly blessed 


life and were a holy class; as it also praises and ex- 
alts St. Gregory himself, so that, although he was 
a holy man (as I regard him) yet he accomplished 
no good b}'^ his teaching, and yet made so fair a 
show that no one can find fault with it, so that, if 
they could now bring back matters and restore 
them to what they were, nobody would dare say a 
word against it, or he would have to be called the 
vilest heretic that ever was. 

This is now one part of the warning, namely, if 
the salt have lost its savor it is no longer of any 
use. The other part sounds still more terrible, 
when he pronounces the sentence upon it, that we 
are to let it be "cast out and trodden under foot of 
men." If the true salt, that is the true interpre- 
tation of Scripture, has disappeared, by which the 
whole world should be rebuked, and which should 
let nothing avail but only simple faith in Christ, 
then it is all over, and all our teaching and re- 
buking does no more good. For God has already 
rejected and damned both the teaching and the liv- 
ing, the master and the pupil. 

In short, if this point concerning Christ be not in- 
sisted upon, that we are justified and saved through 
him alone, and if we do not hold all else, aside from 
him as damned, all resistance and restraint is at an 
end, yes, there is no measure or limit of all heresy 
and error, of all sects and parties, when everybody 
invents and scatters abroad something peculiar of 


his own; as used to be the case among us under the 
Pope, when no monk could have a dream without 
dragging it into the pulpit, and making a special 
divine service out of it, and no lies were so shame- 
ful that they were not accepted, if only any one 
ventured to take them into the pulpit; until at last 
things went so far that not only Christ was lost, 
but God besides, and they themselves believed 
hardly a single article of the faith any more, so that 
I may say that in a hundred years there were few 
Popes that believed a single article; just as it is now 
in German countries, among those with whom the 
article concerning Christ has disappeared and one 
factious party and error after the other has arisen : 
when one denies the sacrament, another baptism 
and other articles, and many become altogether 
Epicurean, who believe nothing at all, just like the 
Popes and their cardinals at Rome, and so at last 
become nothing but swine and kine, and die like 

Therefore, I have always exhorted, just as Christ 
here does, that the salt remain salt, and lose not its 
savor, that is, that we urgently insist upon the 
principal article of the faith. For if this be ne- 
glected, not one part can rightly remain, and all is 
lost; there is no faith or understanding any more, 
so that no one can give right instruction or advice. 
In short, one must let everybody trample upon 
him, that is (as above said,) no bacchanalian or 


jackass is so contemptible, but that if he can only 
invent something new, everybody will run after him 
and believe it. For what have not the abominable 
monks hitherto dared brazenfacedly to preach, and 
beguile the people with their brotherhoods, little 
prayers, rosaries, yes, with their scabby hoods, that 
they put upon the dead, and therewith promise 
them heaven? What is that else, than to let every 
body trample upon you, and be at the mercy of 
every preacher of lies? This comes from the devil's 
getting possession of the heart and totally ruining 
it with his rotten, damnable doctrines and super- 
stition, so that Christ is gone, and the knowledge 
of him is lost. 

For if I cling to this, that Christ alone is my 
righteousness and holiness, no monk will ever per- 
sua4e or mislead me by his hood, rosary, this or that 
work and childish human notion. For through 
faith I am a judge of all imaginable conditions and 
ways of living, so that I can condemn everything 
that offers to show me anything else that is to avail 
before God. But if I neglect this, and let the 
treasure go, and am instructed to seek elsewhere 
and otherwise to be pious, to conciliate God and 
atone for sin, then I am already prepared for all 
sorts of snares and nets of the devil, and to let 
myself be led as he pleases; then presently comes 
some one who preaches to me: If you want to be 
pious and serve God, then put on a hood, pray 


daily so many rosaries, burn so many little candles 
to St. Anna: then I fall in with this like a blind 
man and everybody's fool and prisoner, and do 
everything I am told, so completely that I cannot 
defend myself from even the most trifling mistake. 
See, Christ has himself here foretold this, and 
given warning that so it would be; and no one Has 
ever lived who knew just how to be on his guard 
against it. And if we are not now wide awake, 
and do not take good care that we firmly hold this 
article, then it will happen to us also, that we hold 
no article properly and purely, nor cease to err and 
create factious parties until it is all over, and no 
preaching or teaching will be of use any more, but 
we shall stay swine and kine; as it is, alas! already 
among the great mass, because of our despising the 
gospel and being ungrateful for it. 

V. 14, 15. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on 
a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it 
wider a bushel^ but on a candle-stick, and it giveth light unto 
all that are in the house. 

This is the other part of the office which he com- 
mits to the dear apostles; that they are to be called, 
and to be a light of the world, namely to instruct 
souls and point them to eternal life; by this he sub- 
jects the whole world to the apostles, that it is to 
be and must be enlightened through them, and 
concludes that it all, with everything that it can 
do, is nothing but darkness and blindness. For if 


it without this had a light that could enlighten it, 
(as it indeed thinks it has,) why did he need the 
apostles for this? Now see, if this is not a high, 
excellent office, and an honor above all honor, that 
everybody in the world, whether called kings, 
princes, lords, learned men, wise men, holy men, 
must sit down, and the apostles stand up, and all 
must let their wisdom, holiness, etc., be rebuked 
and condemned, as those who do not know what to 
teach or how to live, or how they are off with God. 
But here comes master Pope with his ugly 
bishops, who want to be called the vicegerents of 
Christ, and of the apostles; who undertake to master 
the word of Christ, and depreciate the apostles, 
where they drivel that it was not enough that the 
apostles preached, and that the Holy Ghost sent 
forth light through them, but we must hear and 
heed the councils of the holy fathers, and the ordi- 
nances of the Popes, who have taught much more 
and better. But we are to know that Christ is not 
such a juggler who talks with half words; but, be- 
cause he calls them a light of the world, their 
teaching alone must avail and be sufficient to en- 
lighten all the world, so that one needs no other 
light; yes, that what is apart from their teaching 
is nothing but darkness. Although they may 
shine long with their lantern, it is after all nothing 
but mere laws devised by men concerning external 
things which without their help everybody under- 

112 luthek's commentary on the 

stands, and could easily himself discover and make 
so that one ought in fact to call them not lux 
mundi [light of the world,] but lex Dei [law of 
God], as those who undertake to govern God him- 
self and his Christendom with their laws, just as 
if they were much better than the apostles. They 
obscure thus the light of the apostles with their 
blind doctrine, with which they cannot properly 
rebuke or instruct any man's conscience; as we see 
in all the books of the Pope, and of all the univer- 
sities, and so they cannot be called either salt or 
light. For when they do their best, they rebuke 
the gross, external things that have already been 
condemned by secular law and the light of reason. 
But the really hard knots and principal things, as 
unbelief, false sanctity, they take no notice of, yes, 
are themselves in them over head and ears. 
Therefore their teaching is sheer nonsense, and 
besides darkness and blindness, not to be able to 
see anvthing higher to salt and to enlighten than 
how one is to eat flesh or fish, to dress and behave 
this or that way. 

Therefore, it surely is and remains the office of 
the apostles alone both to rebuke aright the real 
internal vices, and again to heal, comfort and 
cheer up all poor distressed consciences, and al- 
low no one to go unrebuked in wrong-doing or 
uninstructed and unencouraged in what is good. 
Therefore Christ also here appoints and conse- 


crates them as preachers, that we shall and must 
hear them alone, and admit no other factions spir- 
its whom the devil brings in alongside of them, 
who claim to be the salt and light, yes, even to 
lord it over Christ, and scream out, the doctrine 
of faith amounts to nothing, one must aim higher, 
and otherwise afflict one's self, so that one suffers 
and mortifies himself; which, if one looks at it on 
all sides, is nothing but being taught about our own 
doing, and yet never amounts to showing what is 
unbelief and rebuking the real arrogant vices that 
are sticking in that same doctrine, with which they 
set themselves up as -salt and light; they do not 
stop with the calling and command which he here 
gives to the apostles and says: Ye shall be the 
light; at this alone we aim, that we may be sure 
of this, and confidently say, that Christ has conse- 
crated us to this, and has made it the duty of 
Christians to salt and shine by virtue of our office 
and by divine command. 

For this is also for this reason necessary, because 
' Christ mea;is that this office shall be exercised not 
secretly or in only one place, but openly, through- 
out the world; and he shows them plainly enough, 
what they have to expect from the world, when he 
says: "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. 
Neither do men light a candle and set it under a 
bushel," etc. That is as much as to say: He who 
wants to be a light must see to it that he do 


not creep into a corner, but stand forth publicly 
and be not afraid. For so it goes, as we said be- 
fore, that those who are called to be apostles, and 
shine, do not like to come to the front, allow them- 
selves to be frightened off by threats, danger, per- 
secution, or are befooled with friendship, favor, 
honor and worldly good, so that they do not come 
forward and open their mouths, but creep into cor- 
ners, hide behind the hills, and shut up their 

So it is with our clergy who sit in t)ffice; and 
they are ordered to stand up before Christendom 
and publicly shine with their teaching; but they 
hide it under the bench, yes, have become worse 
than that, for they are the very ones that persecute 
the word, and want to put out the light, and only 
stir up against it emperors, kings and the whole 
world; at the same time they sit in the house and 
want to rule alone the church, have possession of 
pulpit, baptism, sacrament, and everything that 
belongs to the calling- and office. But this is what 
the apostles predicted, that shepherds should be- 
come wolves, and Antichrist should sit in the tem- 
ple of God, and exalt himself above everything 
that is called God and is worshipped. 

In contrast with these are the other factious spir- 
its, who have no calling to this office, who might 
well remain at home in the corner; they want to 
push themselves in everywhere and be the only 


ones to shine, so that everybody must hear them 
and look to them. But these, too, seek only theteby 
their own honor, and they preach only so long as 
the people hang on to them and they need fear no 
danger. But if they were to stand as true preachers, 
to whom the office is entrusted, and steadily shine in 
public, letting no wind or weather frighten or si- 
lence them, they would soon disappear and let no- 
body be found at home. So the dear office of the 
ministry has to be treated on both sides, that either 
those neglect it who should exercise it, or those 
want to exercise it who have not been called to it ; 
and so it is never properly attended to, except when 
Christ provides such persons as he here describes 
and has prepared beforehand, as above. 

He means now here to say: If you wish to be 
my preachers, you must be really prepared to take 
your place publicly and stand up before the world, 
as upon a high mountain, that you may be readily 
seen and openly heard, concealing nothing or hid- 
ing it under the bench, that you ought to preach, 
neither keeping silence or speaking out of love to 
any one; but, as you are the light, shining openly 
and free, without regard to honor or shame, wealth 
or poverty, hatred or favor, death or life; and know 
that you are serving me, who has appointed you to 
be the light. Such would then be the right kind 
of people, who do not let themselves be bent to the 
one side or to the other; as Psalm xlv. says con- 

ii6 Luther's commentary on the 

cerning the office of the ministry: "The sceptre of 
thy'kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest right- 
eousness and hatest wickedness," etc. 

This is the virtue and glory of the gospel and its 
preachers. For all other teachings are free from 
danger, they all preach what people like to hear 
and what is agreeable to reason, they need not fear 
that any one will persecute them. But this teach- 
ing is everywhere opposed, because it will come to 
the front and show that the light and teaching of 
the world is of no account; then^they try in every 
way to obscure for us this light, and push it into a 
corner, or throw it under a bushel, so that we may 
drop our teaching, or recant and let ourselves be 
bent and interpreted as they may please. But we 
will not let ourselves be driven from onr position, 
but will continue to be a city upon a hill, and the 
light upon the candlestick in the house. For he 
who has made us the light will surely keep us as 
such. Therefore he now concludes: 

V. i6. Let your light so shine before men that they may see 
your good works and glorify your Father ^vhich is in heaven. 

See how earnestly he urges the exhortation, 
which he would have no need to do, if there were 
not great danger and occasion for it; and it is as 
much as to say: They will try to obscure your light, 
and will not endure it; but only be bold and in good 
heart against them, so you may accomplish 


only this much, that you do not creep under the 
bushel, but perform honestly the duties of your 
office, then I will see to it that they shall not thus 
obscure it. For this is certain, so long as a Chris- 
tian preacher stands in his lot and does his duty, 
and can despise the world's abuse and persecution, 
the office too must remain, and the gospel cannot 
fall, because there are still those remaining who 
hold to it; as there must be some abiding evermore, 
even to the last day. 

That is to say, however: "That they may see 
your good works and glorify your Father which is 
in heaven," is spoken after the manner of St. Mat- 
thew, who is in the habit of speaking in this way 
of works. For he, together with the other two 
evangelists, Mark and Luke, does not in his gospel 
treat so fully and profoundly upon the great subject 
of Christ as St John and St. Paul. Therefore they 
speak and exhort much about good works; as in- 
deed both should in Christendom be insisted upon, 
yet each in proportion to its nature and dignity: 
that one should first and most of all hold forth 
faith, and Christ, and afterwards inculcate works. 
Since now the evangelist John has most thoroughly 
and powerfully discussed the main topic, and is 
rightly therefore regarded as the highest and fore- 
most evangelist: Matthew, Luke and Mark have 
treated and strongly urged the other side, so that it 
should not be forgotten; so that in this matter they 
are better than John, and he again in the other. 


But you must not look at what is said and taught 
about works in such a way as to separate faith from 
them, as they are docked by our blind teachers: 
but always connect them with faith, so that they 
are incorporated with it, spring from faith and 
move with it, and are praised and called good be- 
cause of it; as I have often taught. So also here, 
when he says: that they may see your good works, 
you must not regard them as mere trifling works, 
without faith, as the good works of our clergy have 
hitherto been; but as such works that faith per- 
|- forms, and that cannot be done without faith. For 
I by good works here he means the practicing, illus- 
1 trating and confessing the teaching concerning 

' Christ, and suffering for doing it. For he speaks 
of those works with which we shine. But shining 
is the proper office of faith or teaching, whereby we 
help others also to believe. 

Therefore it is works of the highest and best 
character, just those from which it must necessarily 
follow, as he here says, that our heavenly Father is 
honored and praised. For this teaching or preach- 
ing takes from us all the glamour of holiness, and 
says, there is nothing good in us whereof we can 
boast. And besides, it interests the conscience, 
how it is to deal with God, exhibits to it the grace 
and mercy of God, and the entire Christ: that is, it 
truly reveals and praises God, which is also the 

rtrue sacrifice and worship. These works are to be 


the first and most important, that are followed also 
by those that are called works of love, in daily life 
and outward treatment of our neighbor; these shine 
also, but only in so far as they are begun and car-j 
ried on in faith. 

Now you can yourself conclude that St. Matthew 
here is not to be understood concerning the com- 
mon works which every one is to do towards his 
neighbor, from love, of which he speaks in Matt. 
XXV. ; but chiefly of the true Christian work, iiamdy 
correct teaching, insisting upon faith and showing 
how to strengthen and keep it, whereby we testify 
that we are true Christians. For the others are not 
so reliable, since even sham Christians can bedeck 
and hide themselves under great, beautiful works of 
love.- But to teach and confess Christ truly is not 7 
possible without faith; as St. Paul says, I Cor. xii. 
3: "No one can call Jesus Lord except by the I 
Holy Ghost.". For no sham Christian or factious 
spirit can understand this doctrine; how much less 
can he properly preach and confess it, although he 
uses the words and echoes them, and yet does not 
adhere to them or let them be clear? — preaching al- 
ways in such a way that one sees he does not under- 
stand it, smears his slobber over it, by which he 
steals the honor from Christ and appropriates it to 

For this alone is the surest work of a true Christ- 
ian, if he so praises and preaches Christ that the 

120 ll'Tiihr's commentary on the 


people learn this, how they are nothing- and Christ 
is everything. In short, it is snch a work that is 
done not with reference to one or two, when it re- 
mains hidden as other works; but publicly before 
the whole world to shine and let itself be seen, and 
alone for this reason is also persecuted. (For other 
works they can very well endure.) Therefore it is 
properly called such a v/ork by which our Father 
is recognized and praised. This the other less im- 
portant works cannot attain to, that have to do 
only with our fellow-men, and belong to the second 
table of the law. These have to do with the first 
three great commandments that refer to God's 
honor, name and word; and besides they must be 
well tested and purified by persecution and suffer- 
ing, that they may endure; also be defamed before 
the world that they may remain free from the desire 
of personal honor, and from arrogance, and be so 
much the more praised before God, as his honor 
and praise are thereby assailed [i. e. by works 
courting self-praise, personal honor, etc.]. There- 
fore, too, they stand most securely, so that God the 
more vigorously defends them, and makes them 
effective over against the violent persecutions of 
the world. Therefore we should give these works 
the decided preference as by far the most import- 
ant, and afterward perform the others also as be- 
tween ourselves and our fellow-men, that so both 
may have their due — that we first of all constantly 


teach and insist upon faith, and tlien live accord- 
ingly, and thus everything that we do is of faith; 
as I have always taught. 

V. 17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the 
prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 

Because Christ the Lord entrusted and strongly 
commended the office to the apostles, he now goes 
further and himself begins both to salt and to 
shine as an example for them, that they may know 
what they are to preach; and attacks both the 
teaching and the life of the Jews, to rebuke and to 
reform their wrong notions and doings; although 
here, as I have said, he does not treat of the great 
principal doctrine of faith; but first he begins below, 
and rightly explains and extols the law, which was 
greatly obscured and perverted by their Pharisees 
and Scribes. For that is also a very important 
matter, that one should make the teaching of God's 
commands clear and set them forth correctly. 

But it is a sharp, unendurable salt, that he at- 
tacks and condemns these people as neither teach- 
ing nor living aright, and finds fault with them in 
everything, who were yet the very best and holiest, 
who were daily teaching the commands of God, 
and were exercising themselves in holy worship, 
etc., so that no one could rebuke them; he gave 
them thereby occasion to fiercely exclaim against 
him, and to accuse him of wishing to undermine 


and destroy the law which God had given, etc. : 
just as the Pope and his crowd cry out against us, 
and denounce us as heretics who forbid the doing 
of good works. So he foresaw very well that he 
would be thus charged, and that his teaching 
would be interpreted in this way. Therefore he 
anticipates with a preface and explanation that/it 
is not his intention to undermine the law; but that 
he is here for the very purpose of rightly teaching 
and confirming it against those who would weaken 
it by their teaching. 

For there was surely need of such a statement, 
on account of the high reputation that they had, 
and in view of the excellent show that they knew 
how to make and dress up, that they alone were 
the people of God, that they had so many prophets 
and holy fathers, that whoever ventured to rebuke 
them would have to hear at once: Who art thou, 
that thou wilt be alone wise and blame everybody, 
as though our fathers and we have all been in 
error, who have the word of God and preach it? 
Just as the whole world is now howling at us, and 
saying we condemn the holy fathers and the whole 
Church that surely cannot err, because it is ruled 
by the Holy Ghost, etc. Because thou art blaming 
our doctrine and life, this is a sign that thou con- 
demnest both the law and the prophets, the fathers 
and the whole people. 

To this now Christ replies: No, I will surely not 


destroy the law or the prophets, but I hold them in 
honor and insist upon their observance more 
earnestly and diligently than you do; yes, so earn- 
estly that heaven and earth shall pass away before 
I will allow a letter or the smallest tittle to perish 
or to have been written in vain; yes, I will still 
further say, that whosoever despises the very least 
commandment or teaches otherwise, he shall on 
account of this very smallest thing in the kingdom 
of heaven be rejected, although he rightly kept all 
the rest. Therefore we agree upon this point, that 
we are strictly to teach and observe Moses and the 
prophets; but the point now is, since we both are 
required to and wish to teach the law (as also now 
both parties, viz. the Pope together with the other 
crowds, and we appeal to the same Scriptures, ex- 
alt at the same time the one gospel and word of 
God), that one may be sure which side rightly holds 
and interprets the Scriptures or the laws of God, or 
which does not. About this there is dispute. Here 
I must salt and rebuke. For the Jews with their 
glosses have perverted and corrupted the law: and 
I have come to set things right again; just as we 
have had to attack the preachings of the Pope, that 
have corrupted for us the Scriptures with their 
stench and filth. 

He does not thereby deny that they are the peo- 
ple of God, and have the law, the fathers and the 
prophets; just as we do not deny or condemn the 


Christians, baptism, gospel, that were under the 
Pope, but we say, it is the right baptism, gospel, 
etc., that we have. But we fight against accepting 
what they have daubed over them, and approving 
of the way in which they interpret and pervert 
them, and- have defiled the pure doctrine with their 
nasty and maggoty, yes devilish appendage of their 
hoods, tonsures, indulgences, purgatory, sacrificial 
masses, etc. Here we have to salt and work, that 
we may clear out this stench and make things 
clean. So it appears that just those who are really 
destroying the law and the Scriptures adorn them- 
selves with the beautiful name of the Scriptures, 
the gospel, the Christian Church, etc., and, under 
this pretence, bring in their maggots, and have so 
corrupted the church as to rob it of its value; and 
then they make an ado about us, that we are assail- 
ing the Christian Church, the holy fathers, good 
works, etc. 

He now says: I am not come to destroy the law, 
but to fulfill it; that is, I will not bring another or 
a new law, but will take the Scriptures that you 
have and properly extol them, and explain them 
in such a way that you may know how we are to 
demean ourselves. For the Gospel or the preach- 
ing of Christ does not bring a new doctrine which 
neutralizes or changes the law; but just that (as St. 
Paul says) which was promised before in the Scrip- 
tures and by the prophets. We accept, therefore, 


from those who are with us the very same Scrip- 
tures, baptism, sacraments, etc., which they have, 
and do not wish to propose anything new or better. 
But this we do for the sole purpose that the same 
may be rightly preached and treated, and that 
whatever does not accord with it may be taken out 
of the way. 

St. Augustine explains the word "fulfill" in 
two ways; first, that fulfilling the law means when 
one adds to the law what it lacks; and secondly, 
when one fulfills it by working and living. But 
the first explanation is wrong. For the law is in 
itself so rich and perfect that one need add nothing 
to it. For the apostles themselves had to prove the 
gospel and the preaching concerning Christ out of 
the Old Testament. Therefore no one, not even 
Christ himself, can improve the law. For what 
can be devised or taught higher than the teaching 
of the first commandment: Thou shalt love God 
with all thy heart, etc. ? He does this, however, 
that he gives in addition to the law and the doc- 
trine his grace and Spirit, so that one may do and 
fulfill what the law demands; but that does not 
mean adding anything to the law. And so he is 
here not speaking about that, but of the fulfilling 
that is done by teaching; just as he defines destroy- 
ing, not as acting against the law by works, but as 
detracting from the law by teaching. 

Therefore we have the same truth here that St. 


Paul utters in Rom. iii. 31: "Do we then make 
void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we 
establish the law," namely, that he does not mean 
to bring- another doctrine, as though the former one 
were no longer to avail; but he means to preach 
and extol the same properly, to show the real 
kernel and meaning of it, that they may learn what 
j[__the law is and demands^ver against the glosses of 
' the Pharisees, which they have inserted, and have 
preached only the shells or husks of it. Just as we 
may say to our papistic friends: we do not wish to 
abolish your gospel or preach it differently, but to 
clean it off and polish it, as a mirror that is dimmed 
and soiled by your filth, so that nothing more 
than the name of the gospel is left, but no one 
could rightly see anything in it: so the Jewish 
teachers kept the text of the law, but with their 
additions so corrupted it that no correct under- 
standing or use of it could remain. 

V. 18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth 
pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all 

That is, I insist upon it, that it must all be 
taught and held pure and entire, and not the least 
part of it be done away; whereby he shows that he 
found it far otherwise, namely, that both doctrine 
and life had not been rightly conducted. There- 
fore he must (as here follows) take in hand both of 
these and thoroughly salt them, that there may be 


a purification. So also must we teach that we do 
not allow a letter to be detached from the gospel, 
but say: Everything must be taught, believed and 
held purely. He thus intimates that he is about 
to preach a sharp sermon, and will not lie under 
the charge that he means to destroy the law; but 
will turn the attack from himself upon them, and 
prove how they have weakened and destroyed the 
law, and for this have daubed their glosses over it. 
Ju'st as our papistic neighbors have done with the 
gospel and the Scriptures, when they utterly ig- 
nored the most important topic, justification by 
faith; also, they have withheld one form from the' 
sacrament and concealed the words of the sacra- 
ment; yes, they have so coarsely misrepresented, 
that they have preached these commandments 
which Christ here announces, not as necessary 
statutes, but as merely good counsels, directly con- 
trary to these words and stipulations, that sooner 
heaven and earth must pass away than that one 
of the least of these be not observed. Thereupon 
he at once passes an earnest sentence upon such 
preachers, as follows: 

V. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least com- 
vtandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least 
in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach 
them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

I will be so positive about these (says he) that I 
riot only will not break any of them; but whoever 

128 lutpier's commentary on the 

is a preacher, and annuls or ignores the very small- 
est part, let him know that he is not a preacher of 
mine, but is damned and shall be turned out of 
heaven. For that he says, he shall be called the 
least in the kingdom of heaven, is nothing else 
than that he shall not be in the kingdom of heaven; 
but, as he holds it to be a small matter that he de- 
spises God's command, so shall he also be despised 
and rejected. 

All the preachers of the gospel must also be pre- 
pared to make the same boast before all the world; 
as we can confidently challenge our opponents to 
show us a passage or article of the Scriptures that 
we suppress or do not rightly preach. For they 
themselves had to testify at the Diet of Augsburg 
that our confession is purely scriptural, and not 
opposed to any article of the faith. But they are 
making a great ado about this only, that we do not 
also hold their peculiar notions that the Councils 
and Popes have sanctioned, and we are to be 
damned because we do not like their nasty maggots 
and rotten human trifles. 

Although we have always shown ourselves ready 
to work with them, and indeed could still do it, if 
they would allow us the liberty and diversity, that 
it is not necessary to salvation Hor contrary to the 
gospel, whether one omits anything or shares in it 
to please them, as any other free, unnecessary 
thing, that neither helps nor hinders us; as when, 


for instance, in the carnival season one shares in 
the mummery. But this they will not admit; and 
so we cannot do otherwise, nor give up Christ our 
Saviour (who has shown and bestowed upon us more 
kindness through his dear suffering and death, 
than the Pope, Franciscus, Dominicus, or any saint) 
for the sake of their rotten notions that can benefit 
or help nobody. If they would grant us this lib- 
erty, we would try to observe everything with them 
that they demand of us, and even better than they 
do themselves. 

But because they are not satisfied with this, but 
want to compel us to forsake Christ and the pure 
doctrine which they themselves cannot find fault 
with, we despise them, as condemned and rejected 
by Christ, with both their doctrine and life, as those 
who not only corrupt but absolutely nullify a word 
or command of God, in that they shamelessly teach 
that it is not necessary to love God with all the 
heart; also, that one honors his parents, if he wants 
to go into a monastery or give to the Church his 
money with which he might keep his parents; 
so also, any one may desert his espoused bride and 
go into a monastery. In short, everything that the 
Lord here demands according to the command of 
God, they have declared to be unnecessary, as 
though this were merely good advice or works of 
supererogation, etc. 

Hence you see what an excellent sort of Christ- 

130 Luther's commentary ox the 

ian teachers and holy people they are, who dare to 
annul and destro}' recklessly all the commands of 
God, and yet want to go scot free, and venture to 
require it of us, yes, with threats and force try to 
drive us to hold their human nonsense to be neces- 
sary, and, if we do not accept and praise this, they 
assail us with horrible edicts and all sorts of furious 
rage. Now calculate for yourself what Christ will 
say to it, since he here pronounces so severe a 
sentence, that he shall have no part in his kingdom 
who breaks one of the least of these command- 
ments, although he teaches and keeps all the rest 
exactly. Where do you think is the place for 
them, except in the glowing fire of hell, where it is 
the deepest? For there never has risen such a 
shameful people upon earth, who so shamelessly 
treated the word of God, which they know to be 
right, and still wish to be held in honor as Chris- 
tians that are leaders. Therefore beware of them, 
and let no one be frightened by their damning, 
persecution and raging. For here we have the 
consolation that those who teach purely and truly 
the word of God, and adhere to that, shall be great 
with Christ in the kingdom of heaven, although 
that crowd curses them to the bottom of hell. 

I omit, however, here to say how the law must 
be fulfilled, so that no letter or tittle of it pass, etc., 
whilst we still teach that no man can fulfill it. 
For I have said that Christ is here speaking partic- 


nlarly not concerning the life, but concerning the 
doctrine; and he is not discussing the great subject 
what he is and what he gives to us, namely, that 
we cannot be justified or saved by the works of the 
law, but thereby only come to the knowledge of 
ourselves, how we are not able to fulfill properly a 
tittle of it of ourselves. And although after we 
have become Christians by baptism and faith, we 
do as much as we can, we still can never thereby 
stand before God; but must always humbly find 
our way to Christ, who has most purely and per- 
fectly fulfilled it all, and bestows himself with his 
fulfillment of it upon us, so that through him we 
may stand before God, and the law cannot hold us 
guilty or condemn us. So that it is true that all 
must come to pass and be fulfilled even to the 
smallest tittle; but only by this one man, of which 
enough is said elsewhere. 

V. 20. For I say unto you that except your righteousness 
shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye 
shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaveti. 

Here you see how he plunges in and antagonizes 
not ordinary people, but the very best in the whole 
nation, who were the true kernel and quintessence, 
and shone before .the rest like the sun, so that there 
was no more highly esteemed class nor more honor- 
able name among the people than that of the Phar- 
isees and Scribes; and if one wanted to name a holy 
man, he would have to name a Pharisee; just as 


among us the Carthusians or hermits were called: 
as the disciples of Christ no doubt themselves be- 
lieved that there was no greater holiness to be 
found than among these, and they least of all ex- 
pected that he would assail these people. Nor did 
he venture at once to mention names, and blame 
certain persons among them, but the whole class; 
and he rebukes also not certain evil practices or 
sins, but their righteousness and holy living; so 
completely, indeed, that he denies and closes the 
kingdom of heaven against them, and condemns 
them at once to hell fire. Just as if he now said: 
All priests and monks, and all that are called spir- 
itual, without exception, are eternall}' damned to 
hell, with all their system, where it is the best. 
Who could hear or endure such a sermon? That 
is now one thing that he acknowledges, that they 
have a righteousness, and lead a correct, honorable 
life; and yet he so completely rejects it, that if it be 
not better than that, it is already condemned, and 
all is lost that one can accomplish by it. 

Secondly, notice, that he is treating of those 
who wish to get to heaven, and who seriously think 
about another life, which the other great rude mass 
do not regard, nor do they ask about God and his 
word, to whom everything that we say about the 
gospel is preached in vain. But these are preached 
to, that they may know, that such righteousness is 
false, which one must salt and rebuke, as that with 


which they deceive both themselves and others, 
and lead to hell from the right road, and that they 
may consider, on the other hand, what the true 
piety is which the law demands; as Christ now 
presently will show. 

V. 21. Ye have heard that it was said to the»i of olden time, 
Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger 
of the judgment. 

Here he takes up several of the Ten Command- 
ments, to explain them properly, and shows how 
the Pharisees and Scribes gave no further explana- 
tion of them and attached no further significance to 
them than lies in the mere words, as referring to 
external gross works. So, in the first place, in this 
fifth commandment they saw nothing more than the 
word kill, that means strike dead with the hand ; 
and they let the people stop short with that, as if 
nothing further were here forbidden, and as if 
besides a convenient shield were provided, so that 
they would not be guilty of the killing, though one 
handed over another person to death. So, when 
they delivered Christ to the heathen Pilate, they 
would not defile their hands with blood, that they 
might continue to be pure and holy; and they were 
so strict, that they would not even go into the palace 
of the judge; and yet it was they alone who caused 
his death, and forced Pilate against his will that he 
had to kill him. Yet they acted as if they were en- 
tirely clean and innocent, so that they even blamed 


the apostles in regard to it, and said: "You intend to 
bring this man's blood upon us;" as though they 
should say: It was not we, but the heathen, that 
killed him. So we read about king Saul in i Sam. 
xviii. 25. He disliked David, and would gladly 
have killed him; but as he wanted to be holy, he 
thought he would not kill him himself, but send 
him among the Philistines, that he might be killed 
there, and his hand not be defiled with his blood. 

See, that is the beautiful Pharisee-holiness, that 
can make itself clean, and stay pious, if it only 
does not slay with its own hand, although the heart 
is sticking full of wrath, hatred and envy, and 
secret evil and murderous designs, and the tongue 
besides full of cursing and blasphemy; just as is the 
case with the holiness of our papists, who have 
become real masters in this business; and, that 
their holiness may not be rebuked nor they be 
bound by the words of Christ, they have come 
liandsomely to his assistance, and have deduced 
twelve counsels from his words, that Christ has not 
commanded all this as necessary, but has left it at 
the option of every one to be observed as good ad- 
vice, whoever wishes to merit something special 
above others; that it is instruction altogether su- 
perfluous, that one can easily dispense with. 

But if you ask them for what reason they have 
invented these recommendations, or how they prove 
them, they say: Why, if one should teach thus 


that would mean nimis onerativimi legis cJirist- 
ianae^ that is, Christian people would be too heav- 
ily burdened; as those at Paris have openly and 
boldly written against me. Yes, truly, a beautiful 
reason and a grievous burden, that a Christian 
should be friendly towards his neighbor, and not 
let him be in need, as every one wishes to be 
treated. And because they think it too burden- 
some, it must not be said to have been commanded, 
but left at every one's option to be done or not as 
one may choose; but he who cannot or will not do 
it shall not be burdened with it. Thus we are to 
twist the mouth of Christ, master his words, and 
make out of them whatever we please. But he 
will not allow himself to be deceived in this way, 
nor will he recall his sentence that he has here pro- 
nounced saying: whosoever has not a better piety, 
shall find heaven shut against him, and be damned, 
and as follows afterwards, also, he shall be deserv- 
ing of hell-fire who says to his brother. Thou fool; 
from which we may easily conclude whether it was 
recommended or commanded. 

And here they have also discovered a little gloss, 
to help their lies, and thus they say, it was indeed 
commanded to refrain from anger and spite in the 
heart, but not from the tokens of wrath, that is, as 
we say in German, to forgive, but not to forget, 
and to have the idea that you will not be angry ot 
do anything bad, and yet withhold all kindness from 


your neighbor and bestow upon him no good word 
or token of friendship. Here ask of God himself 
and Christ, why he did not withhold this kindness 
from those who crucified him, reviled and most 
shamefully blasphemed him, but prayed for them 
and said: Father, forgive them, for they know not 
what they do, although they were the most shame- 
less villains, who deserved the fiercest wrath and 
punishment. Yes, if he had been angry at us in 
that way, who were his enemies and practiced all 
manner of idolatry and ungodliness, he would have 
had to stay up there in heaven and not shed his 
blood and die for us, but say after the manner of 
this little gloss: I will forgive, indeed, but I will 
not forget. Meanwhile we should all have contin- 
ued to be the devil's own, and no man could have 
escaped going to hell. In short, it is absolutely a 
disgraceful, cursed little gloss, and in fact a sin and 
a shame, that any one in Christendom has dared to 
teach this, in the face of such a clear and open 
text; yet they have daubed all their books full of 
these lies, and are trying now besides brazenfacedly 
to defend them. But hereby we are to see and 
recognize our Pharisees and hyprocrites, with their 
great sanctity, which they profess with many 
special works, but at the same time witho-ut hesi- 
tation transgress the commands of God and also 
teach others to do the same; as Christ here and else- 
where depicts them. 


It is indeed true, that one must be angry, if those 
do it whose duty it is, and if the anger does not go 
farther than to rebuke sin and what is evil; as, 
when one sees another sin, admonishes and warns 
him, that he may refrain from it, etc. That is a 
Christian and brotherly, yes, a fatherly anger. For 
you see in the case of pious parents, that they do 
not punish their children in such a way that they 
mean to do them harm or injury, but that badness 
may be repressed and e\ul averted; so also the pow- 
ers that be are to be wrathful and punish. Here 
it is indeed right that one should have no anger in 
his heart, and yet must show signs and tokens of 
anger, since both the word and the fist are rough 
and sharp, but the heart remains sweet and friendly 
and knows of no spite. In short, it is the anger of 
love that wishes harm to no one, but is a friend of 
the person, whilst hostile to the sin, as even nature 
may teach every one. But it will not do to abuse 
this as a shield, and hide and dress up under it 
spite and envy in the heart against our neighbor; 
as those knavish saints do and teach. 

So Jesus now takes up this command, and means 
to say this: You have thus heard from the Phari- 
sees how Moses commanded, and of old it was thus 
taught: Thou shalt not kill, etc. Therewith you 
tickle yourselves and deck yourselves out, take on 
airs as those who diligently teach, and observe "the 
laws of God as they are taught from Moses, and 


were received by them of olden time; you take 
your stand and insist upon it: There is Moses, he 
says, Thou shalt not kill. You hold on to that 
word, and won't let it mean anything else than just 
as it sounds in the plainest sense, so that the 
simple-minded must say: "It is true; that's the way 
it stands in the book;" thus you darken the word 
with your continual bawling and your foul glosses, 
so that one does not see what the words really con- 
tain and mean. For do you think that he is 
speaking only of the fist where he says: Thou 
shalt not kill? What does he mean \>y yoii? Not 
only your hand, foot, tongue, or any other single 
member; but all that you are, body and soul. Just 
as when I say to any one: You shall not do this; I 
speak not with the fist, but with the whole person. 
Yes, even if I should say: Thy fist shall not do it, 
I mean not the hand alone, but the whole person to 
whom the hand belongs; for the hand alone would 
do nothing if the whole body with all its members 
did not cooperate. 

Therefore, Thou shalt not kill, is as much as to 
say: You may find as many ways to kill as you 
have members of the body, by your hand, tongue, 
heart, by signs and gestures, by angrily looking at 
any one, by begrudging him his life, by your eyes 
or even by your ears — if you don't like to hear him 
spoken of, that all means killing. For then your 
heart and all there is about you is so disposed that 


you would be glad if he were already dead, and 
although meanwhile your hand is quiet, your 
tongue is silent, your eyes and ears are muffled, 
yet your heart is full of murder and manslaughter. 

V. 22. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his 
brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall 
say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but 
whosoever shall say: Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 

Behold, this is the true light, that shows the true 
meaning of this commandment, and that puts to 
shame their foul gloss, as a dark lantern in contrast 
with the bright sun, and it now shines with such a 
different appearance, that they are presently amazed 
and say, That is teaching with authority, and not 
as their scribes. Although this explanation is clear 
enough, and elsewhere often treated of, we must 
yet here for the sake of the text expand the words 
a little. In the first place he says: He who is 
angry with his brother is in danger of the judg- 
ment; that is, he has merited the same punishment 
that is inflicted upon a murderer, namely, that he 
should be condemned to death. For he repeats the 
very words that stand in the text, Lev. xxiv. 17 
(which he now himself has quoted): He that kill- 
eth any man shall surely be put to death. Because 
now he who is angry with his brother comes under 
the same sentence, he is also properly called a 
murderer. In the second and third statement : 
Whosoever saith to his brother, Raca, or. Thou 


fool, is in danger of the council and of hell fire, he 
means the same thing as to be in danger of the 
judgment, namely, that he is in danger of being 
put to death. 

But he mentions three particulars, to show how 
the punishment becomes greater and more severe 
the more the sin continues and reveals itself For 
he speaks as in a process before the court, when a 
criminal is to be punished. As namely, when one 
has committed murder, he is in danger of the 
judgment, that is, he is brought before the court, 
indicted, and a charge is brought against him, as 
one who has caused death. That is the first grade 
or step towards death; yet the sentence has not yet 
been passed, so that he still may have room to vin- 
dicate himself and be acquitted. Secondly, when 
however the sentence has been passed that he is to 
die, then he is in danger of the council, so that a 
consultation is held concerning him, what kind of 
punishment is to be meted out to him; then he is 
again nearer to death, so that he cannot escape. 
Thirdly, when the sentence of death has now been 
passed, and all has been determined upon, he is 
handed over to the executioner, that he may take 
him away and perform his official duty. So he in- 
dicates by these steps, how one sinks deeper and 
deeper into punishment; just as he who is to be exe- 
cuted draws steadily nearer and nearer to death. 
Therefore, it is as if it were said: He who is angry 


in heart is already deserving of death before God; 
but he who goes further and says: Raca, or, Thou 
fool, has already had sentence pronounced upon 
him, etc. In short, he is already damned to hell- 
fire who is angry with his brother. But he who 
says Raca, deserves to go still deeper into hell; still 
deeper, however, he who kills also with words and 
fist. So the punishment and condemnation is en- 
tirely one and the same, and yet the same is heavier 
and more severe as the sin progresses and breaks 
out more fiercely. 

As to the meaning of Raca, we are told that it 
signifies all sorts of indications that show our 
anger against our neighbor: as when one neither 
speaks to or looks at him ; or when one is pleased 
and secretly rejoices when it goes ill with him; or 
where one in any way shows that he would be 
really glad if his neighbor would be utterly ruined; 
as there are now many of these poisonous, wretched 
creatures, that array themselves most bitterly 
against us, both publicly and by secret and treach- 
erous practices, as those who would most gladly 
hear that we were all exterminated, and yet they 
pose as holy Christian people. 

The other phrase: Thou fool, means not only the 
various indications [above mentioned] but all the 
words that come from a bad, poisonous heart, that 
is hostile to its neighbor. Otherwise, if they come 
from a kind, motherly heart, there is no sin. For 


one may indeed rebnke and scold with words, as 
St. Paul calls his Galatians fools, and Christ says 
to his disciples: O fools, and slow of heart to be- 
lieve; yes, not only this, but we must also be angry 
and wear a stern and forbidding exterior. For this 
is all a godly anger and vexation at the wrong, not 
at the person, but for the benefit of our neighbor. 
In short, it is a necessary anger, that cainiot be 
dispensed with in any house, in any city and gov- 
ernment, yes, in any pulpit. For should father, 
mother, judge and preacher haul in mouth and fist, 
and neither rebuke nor restrain the evil, govern- 
ment and Christianity and everything would go to 
destruction through the wickedness of the world. 
So that the meaning here is: hate the cause, yet 
love the person; as the jurists very well say, if they 
only would make the right use of it. 

V. 23, 24. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and 
there remeniberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, 
leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be 
reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 

He makes a long sermon over this command, 
which looks indeed like an easy text, but the vice 
[here rebuked] is very wide-spread and common, 
especially among high, mighty, wise people, as at 
the courts of kings, lords and princes, and those who 
are anything, or can accomplish anything upon 
earth, they are most deeply involved in it, and yet 
must not be blamed with it. For it wears a very 


specious appearance, and nothing can dress itself up 
so handsomely and adorn itself with the appearance 
of sanctity, wherewith many people deceive them- 
selves and others; and they do not see hov/ they 
are at heart hostile to their neighbor, or cher- 
ish a secret spite against him, and nevertheless 
want to be pious, serve God, and, as he here says, 
go to the altar and bring a sacrifice, supposing 
that it is all right with them. 

This is the way of it; they put on a handsome 
appearance and stand under the cover of what is 
called zelus jiistitiae [a zeal for justice,] a virtue 
that loves justice and is indignant at evil and 
cannot tolerate it; just as the sword and ruling 
authority are appointed to administer righteousness 
and punish wickedness; as also father and mother, 
master and -mistress, must become angry and pun- 
ish. Here comes now the pious villain, puts on his 
little robe and says he does it out of love for right- 
eousness, and has good and reasonable cause for 
what he does: as now princes and others are brim- 
full of poison, hatred and envy against our people, 
live on in this spirit, make no conscience of it, and 
the whole thing is nothing but "indulgences" and 
"relics. " For they cover themselves with the 
beautiful excuse, that they say they are hostile to 
heresy, and they make a great virtue out of it, a 
holy zeal and a love for the truth; and there is 
at bottom nothing but a shameful, poisonous hatred 


and spite, that cannot otherwise show and gratify 

For I know, and may well say, that all onr oppo- 
nents (except onr dear lord the Emperor, person- 
ally, who has not been correctly informed abont 
us,) neither have nor know any reason why they 
should hate and be hostile to us, except mere envy 
and mischief. For they make no charge against 
us of any wrong-doing, that we are scamps or 
scoundrels, or have injured them in any way; they 
know too, and have had to confess it, that our 
doctrine is the exact truth; yet they are so full of 
poison that they would bear with the world full of 
nothing but desperate villains rather than with us 
and ours. 

So there are many excellent, honorable, learned 
and otherwise upright people, who are so filled 
with anger, envy and hatred, and are so embittered 
by it, that they are unconscious of it, and are fully 
satisfied that they are doing it by virtue of their 
office or for the sake of righteousness. For their 
excuse is too plausible, and so delusive that no one 
dare accuse them of being anything else than up- 
right, pious people. So their hearts at last become 
hardened, they strengthen and harden themselves 
in the poisonous vice, and sin against the Holy 
Ghost. For it is a two-fold wickedness; first that 
the heart is full of anger, hatred and envy; sec- 
ondly, that it is not acknowledged to be sin or evil, 


but is to be called virtue, wliicli is equivalent to 
smiting God on the mouth and making him out a 

Notice, for this reason Christ warns so diligently 
that every one be specially careful at this point lest 
he be deceived by this hypocrisy and false appear- 
ance. For no one believes how such a simple 
statement can be so far-reaching and affect such 
great people. For by these words, as he says: "If 
thou bring thy gift to the altar" he shows clearly 
that he is speaking of those who serve God, and 
claim to be the true children of God, and are re- 
puted to be the best of all. What is wrong with 
them, then? Nothing, except that their heart is 
sticking full of hatred and envy. Dear friend, of 
what account is it that you are incessantly fasting 
and praying, giving all your money for God's sake, 
and castigating vourself to death, and doing ever 
so many good works, more than all the Carthusians, 
whilst at the same time you ignore the command 
of God that he wishes to be obeyed ? That you 
make no conscience of reviling and calumniating 
others, and yet wish to present a great sacrifice? 
Just as if one had caused war and murder, and had 
shed much blood, and afterward paid a thousand 
ducats for having masses said for those who 
were killed; or if some one had stolen a great sum 
of money, and then would give alms for God's 
sake. Thus they deceive God (yes, themselves) 


willi the pretty pretence, that he must now regard 
them as genuine living saints. 

Therefore he says now: Do you wish to serve 
God and present an offering, and have you injured 
any one, or do you cherish anger against your 
neighbor? then know at once that God will not ac- 
cept your offering, but lay it right down, and drop 
everything and go first of all and be reconciled 
with your brother. By this he means now all 
works that one can do to serve or praise God (for 
in those days there was no better work than to offer 
sacrifice); and he rejects it entirely, and commands 
that it be dropped at once, unless your heart first 
assures you that 3'ou are reconciled with your 
neighbor and do not know of cherishing any ill- 
will. If this be done, then come (says he), and 
offer thy gift. This he adds, so that no one should 
think that he wishes to reject or despise such a gift. 
For it was not an evil act, but one ordered and 
commanded by God; but that is evil, and utterly 
spoils it all, that they disregard the higher com- 
mands of God and despise them. That is making 
an abuse of sacrifices against your neighbor. 

There is also an abuse in regard to this matter 
that is of more consequence — that one seeks thereby 
to be saved, to atone for sin, and to rely upon it 
and have confidence before God; of this we treat 
elsewhere. In itself it is a good work; just as all 
other works of public worship, as praying and fast- 


iiig, are not to be despised or neglected, where their 
intention and nse are proper, namely, that one does 
not do them thereby to merit heaven, and when 
the heart is all right towards our neighbor, and 
thus both faith and love are pure and right. But 
if thou prayest and fastest, and yet along with tliis 
speakest evil of thy neighbor, defamest and slan- 
derest people, thy mouth indeed speaks holy words 
and eats nothing; but it meanwhile pollutes and 
defiles itself with thy neighbor, against the com- 
mand of God. 

Therefore he rebukes and forbids such fasting in 
Is. Iviii. 3, wherewith they mortified their bodies 
and made pretence of great devotion, and he says: 
Behold in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, 
and exact all your labors. Ye fast for strife and 
debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: 
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your 
voice to be heard on high, etc. And he further 
teaches how we are to fast properly: Is not this 
the fast that I have chosen ? to loose the bands af 
wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let 
the oppressed go free, etc. Break thy bread to the 
hungry, and when thou seest the naked, cover 
him, etc. Here you see how he is chiefly con- 
cerned about our love for our neighbor. 

V. 25, 26. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art 
in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee 
to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be 


cast into prison . Vcrily\ I say uttto thee, Thou shall by no means 
come out thence, till thou hast paid the tittermost farthing . 

In the previous text he preached to him who had 
injured his neighbor or was angry at him: but here 
he tells how he is to act who is injured; and he 
carries out the figure that he had introduced, 
namely the usual course taken before a court, 
when two parties are opposed to one another, one 
accusing, the other being accused, and the judge 
pronouncing sentence and punishing the guilty 
party; and he means only to say that he who in- 
jures another should peaceably become reconciled 
with him; that the other, however, should consent 
to be reconciled and cheerfully forgive. This is 
now also a fine point, and here many can very 
nicely cover over and adorn their scoundrelism, by 
saying that they will gladly forgive, but not forget. 
For there is ever the pretence at hand, of which I 
have spoken, that anger against the wrong is rea- 
sonable, and they think they are acting with good 
reason, and all is right and proper. 

Therefore he warns here again, and shows that 
in this commandment not only is wrath forbidden, 
but it is also commanded that we are cheerfully to 
forgive and forget the harm that has been done 
to us: as God has done with us, and still does, when 
he forgives sin, that he blots it out of the record al- 
together and remembers it no more; yet not so 
that one must or can in such measure forget it, 


that one dared never think of it again; but in such 
a way that you can have just as friendly a heart 
towards your neighbor as before he injured you. 
But if the stump remains in your heart, so that 
you are not as friendly and kind towards him as 
before, then it cannot be said that you have for- 
gotten, not even that you have heartily forgiven, 
and you are still the knave who comes before the 
altar with his gift and means to serve God, whilst 
his heart is yet sticking full of anger, envy and 
hatred. But very few people pay regard to this; 
they all wear the beautiful mask, they do not see 
how their heart stands in relation to this command, 
which in short tolerates no wrath or ill-will against 
one's neighbor. 

It is true, as above said, that anger there must 7 
and shall be; but take care that it be properly ap- I 
plied, and remember that thou art commanded not I 
to be augry on thine own account; but for the sake 
of thine office and of God, and that thou must not 
confound the two, thy person and office. For thine] 
own person thou must not cherish anger against \ 
any one, however badly thou art injured; but where ; 
thine office requires it, there must thou be angry, ^ 
even though no harm has been done to thy person, j 
Thus a pious judge is angry at a criminal to whom 
he wishes no harm for his own person's sake, and 
whom he would rather leave unpunished, and his 
wrath proceeds from a heart in which there is 


nothing but love towards his neighbor, and it is 
only the evil deed that is to be punished that must 
bear the wrath. But if thy brother has done some- 
thing against thee and angered thee, and asks thy 
forgiveness, and ceases to do evil; then the anger 
also must subside. Whence comes then the secret 
spite that thou nevertheless art still cherishing in 
thy heart, when the cause and occasion of the 
anger is gone, and instead thereof other acts appear 
showing that the man is converted and has become 
a totally different man, and has become a new tree, 
with new fruits, who now loves and honors thee 
supremely, so that he blames and rebukes himself 
on thy account? Thou must before God and all 
the world be a desperate man, if thou dost not 
again show thyself thus towards him and heartily 
forgive him, so that the sentence is properly pro- 
nounced against thee that is threatened here. 

V. 27, 28, 29, 30. Y^e have heard thai it was said to them of 
old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: BiU I say unto you, 
That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath com- 
mitted adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy 
right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is 
profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and 
not that thy ivhole body should be cast into hell. And if thy 
right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee : for it is 
profitable for thee that one of thy mejnbers should perish and not 
that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 

This is a bit of salt against the teaching of the 
Pharisees; he treats in it of two things — first of 


adultery, then of cutting off. Concerning adultery, 
they had given the literal meaning to the fifth com- 
mandment, and taught thus: There is nothing more 
forbidden than the real act of adultery; and they did 
not regard it as a sin if they were at heart inflamed 
with lust and evil desire towards another, and also 
outwardly revealed this with ugly words and im- 
modest gestures, and this did no harm to their 
sanctity if they only did otherwise good works, 
diligently sacrificed and prayed, etc. That was 
not teaching the commands of God, but perverting 
them; it was not making the people pious, but 
only worse; it was giving room and permission for 
all sorts of sin and unchastity. But here you hear 
a different master, who shows their sanctity to be 
sin and shame, and throws true light upon this 
commandment, and decides that adultery is com- 
mitted also with eyes, ears, mouth, yes most of all 
with the heart; as when one looks at a woman, or 
sports with her, yes thinks of her lustfully. 

Now see how matters must have stood among 
this people, and what kind of people Christ had to 
deal with, since not only the great, common crowd, 
but those who stood above other people and ought 
to teach and control them, not only permit such 
things, but do them themselves, and increase the 
occasion for adultery, and yet wish to be counted 
pious if they only do not actually commit adultery; 
although it is easy to calculate how pious and 


chaste people can be for works' sake, if so much 
allowance be made, and they can carry it so far as 
to have their heart full of eager lust, that also re- 
veals itself by all sorts of signs, words and gestures 
towards each other. What else can then follow 
but the act itself, if opportunity offers? Or, how 
is he therefore so much the more pious, although 
he cannot perform the deed that he would like to 
accomplish and is unceasingly lusting after it in his 
heart? Just as a wretch can wish to see his mas- 
ter dead, although he is lying in prison, and would 
like to kill him himself, if he could only get at him: 
are we therefore not to call him a murderer, or even 
to count him pious? 

But do you say: If that be true, that also with 
a look adultery can be committed, what are we 
then to do ? Men and women must live together 
and have daily intercourse. Or are we to run out 
of the world, or punch out ears and eyes, and have 
our heart torn out? Answer: Christ does not here 
forbid that we are to live together, eat, drink, yes, 
even laugh and be merry; that is all still free of 
harm, if only the one feature be wanting, that 
means, to lust after her. It is true, the Jews try 
to help themselves out in this way, by saying- 
there is no sin, if one loves another with thoughts 
and signs; just as they do not regard it as sin to be 
angry with a neighbor and be hostile to him at 
heart: so that one must not condemn the whole 


nation and so many holy people, as if they were all 
mnrderers and adnlterers. Therefore they ninst 
apologize for these commandments, that one is not 
to interpret them so strictly; but, as our learned 
men have said: These may be good counsels for 
the perfect, but nobody is bound by them; and they 
have gone so far in this matter that there has been 
great disputing and doubting, whether bad conduct 
with a whore, outside of marriage, is even a sin; 
and it is in fact now in Italy among respectable 
people counted an honor, so that one almost regards 
those as holy who go no farther than this. Again, 
however, there are those who have narrowed it 
down altogether too much, and want to be so very 
holy, that they forbid even looking at any one, and 
have taught that all association of male and female 
persons is to be avoided. Hence come the excel- 
lent saints that have run away from the world into 
the wilderness and into monasteries, so that they 
may shut themselves off from all seeing and hear- 
ing, from all dealing and fellowship with the world. 
But Christ states the opposite of both these ex- 
tremes; he will not let the command of God be so 
twisted; and such counsel be given in the matter 
as to give a loose rein to unchastity and villainy. 
For he says in plain and clear words that he who 
looks at a woman with evil desire is an adulterer, 
and sentences him besides to hell-fire, when he says 
it is better that one should put out his eye than 


that the whole body should be cast into hell. And 
he also does not want such saints as run away from 
mankind. For if that were to be the rule, the ten 
commandments would nowhere be needed. For if 
I am in the wilderness, separated from everybody 
else, no one can thank me for not committing 
adultery, murdering and stealing ; and I still may 
think meanwhile that I am holy and have violated 
none of the ten commandments, which however 
have been given by God for the very reason that 
he may teach us how we are to live aright in the 
world with reference to our neighbor. 

For we are not so made that we are to run away 
from one another, but are to live together and 
share both good and evil. For as we are men, we 
must also help to bear all sorts of human misfor- 
tunes and the curse that has fallen upon us, and 
so prepare ourselves that w^e can live among bad 
people, so that every one may there prove his holi- 
ness and not let himself be made impatient, so that 
he flees away. For we must live upon earth among 
thorns and thistles, in a state of affairs that abounds 
in temptation, opposition and trouble. And you 
have not helped yourself in the least though you 
have run away from the multitude, and yet carry 
along with you the same bad companion, that is 
the lust and evil passion that adheres to flesh and 
blood. For you surely cannot deny your father 
and mother, though you are alone and locked up, 


nor can you throw away your flesh and blood from 
you and let it lie. Tlie command is not to lift 
your foot and run away; but abide in your lot, 
bravely to stand and contend against all manner 
of temptation, and patiently to force your way 
through and conquer. 

Therefore Christ is a true Master, who teaches 
you not to run away from people, nor to change 
your place; but to lay hands upon yourself, and cast 
from you the eye or the hand that offends you, that 
is, to remove the occasion of sinning, which is the 
evil lust and desire that sticks in yourself and 
comes out of your heart. If this be out of the way, 
you can easily without sin be among the people 
and have intercourse with everybody. Therefore 
he says plainly (as above said): If thou lookest 
upon a woman to lust after her, thou hast com- 
mitted adultery with her in thy heart. He does 
not forbid your looking at her; for he is speaking 
to those who must live in the world among the 
people, as the whole previous teaching of this chap- 
ter and also that which follows abundantly shows. 
But he means that we are to separate from each 
other the looking and the lusting. 

You may look, indeed, at any woman or man; 
but only be careful that there be no lusting. For 
to this end God has ordained that every one should 
have his own wife or her own husband, so that 
every one may properly gratify both lust and de- 


sire. If you do not go beyond this you ha\'e his 
sanction, and lie adds his blessing to it, and is sat- 
isfied with it, as his ordinance and creature. But 
if you go beyond this, and are not satisfied with 
what God has given you, but go lusting and gaping 
after others, then you have already gone too far, 
and have confounded the two, so that the looking 
is spoiled by the lusting. 

This is also the chief cause of adultery, that is 
always apt to happen when one does not regard 
God's word in reference to his wife, as that which 
God gives him and blesses, but at the same time 
he fixes his gaze upon another woman; then soon 
the heart goes after the eyes, so that lust also and 
desire are added, which I ought to have for my wife 
alone. Aside from this, flesh and blood is overcur- 
ious, so that it is soon discontented with and tired 
of that which it has, is gaping after something else, 
and the devil adds his promptings, so that one sees 
nothing in his wife but what is faulty and fails to 
see what is good and praiseworthy. Hence it 
comes to pass that every other woman is more 
beautiful and better in my eyes than my own wife; 
yes, many a one who has a really beautiful, pious 
wife, allows himself to be so blinded, that he dis- 
likes her, and attaches himself to an ugly, shame- 
ful piece. 

Therefore this would be the true art and strong- 
est safeguard against this sin (as I have elsewhere 


more fully explained, of marriage and wedded life), 
if every one would learn rightly to regard his 
spouse according to the word of God, which is the 
most precious treasure and beautiful ornament that 
one can find in a man or woman, and would mirror 
himself in it; then he would love and esteem his 
spouse as a divine gift and treasure, and woul'd 
think thus if he sees another (even if she were 
prettier than his own): Is she pretty? well, she is 
not so very pretty, and if she were the prettiest on 
earth, I have at home a more beautiful ornament 
in my wife that God has given me, and has adorned 
with his word above all others, even though she 
be not beautiful in body, or be otherwise defective. 
For if I look at all the women in the world, I find 
no one of whom I can boast as I can of mine with 
a good conscience: This one God has bestowed 
upon me and placed within my arms, and I know 
that he and all angels are heartily pleased if I cling 
to her with love and fidelity. Why should I then 
despise this precious divine gift, and devote myself 
"^ to another, in whom I find no such treasure and or- 

See, I could easily look at all women, and talk 
with them, laugh and be merry in such a way that 
still there should be no lust and desire on my part, 
and I would not let any one seem to be so beautiful 
or desirable to me, that I would act contrary to 
God's word and command; and though I was 


tempted by flesh and blood, yet I did not need to 
consent, nor allow myself to be overcome, but I 
had to contend bravely against it and conquer 
through the word o^ God, and to live in the world 
in such a way that no one's wickedness could 
make me wicked, and no enticement could make 
me an adulterer. But because one does not see or 
regard this word of God, it has easily happened, 
that one becomes tired of his spouse and averse to 
her, and prefers another and cannot resist the lust 
and desire. For he does not know the art, that he 
can rightly regard his spouse according to the 
beauty and ornament with which God has clothed 
her for him; he sees no further than according to 
the eyes, as his wife appears to him ill-shaped or 
faulty, and another prettier and better. So you 
understand when looking at a woman is sin, or is 
not sin, namely, that one is not to look at another 
as every one is to look at his wife. 

Yet we are not here to span the bow too tightly, 
as if one were to be damned because, when tempted, 
he feels that this lust and desire towards another' 
begins to arise. For I have often said that it 
is profitable to live in flesh and blood without 
sinful, evil inclination, not only in this matter, 
but also against every commandment. Therefore 
moralists have made this distinction, with which I 
concur: that an evil thought, without assent, is 
not a mortal sin. It is not possible, if some one 


has offended you, that your heart should not feel, 
or^bFTTTOved^a'ird'^egln to heave to take vengeance. 
But that is not yet criminal, if it only does not de- 
termine and proceed to do harm, but resists this 
inclination. So also in this case; it is not possible 
to prevent the devil from shooting into the heart 
evil thoughts and lust. But then take care that 
thou dost not allow such arrows to stick there and 
grow fast, but tear them out and throw them away, 
and do as long ago was taught by one of the 
ancients, who said: "I cannot prevent a bird from 
flying over my head; but I can easily prevent it 
from making a nest in my hair, or biting off my 
nose." Thus it is not in our power to prevent this 
or some other temptation, so that thoughts do not 
occur to us: if we only stop with their occurring to 
us, so that we do not admit them, although they 
knock for admittance, and prevent their taking 
root, lest they might lead to consent and a purpose 
to sin. But nevertheless it is still sin, but it is in- 
cluded in the common forgiveness, because we can- 
not live in the flesh without committing many 
sins, and every one must have his devil; as also St 
Paul complains about the sin (Rom. vii. 17) that 
dwells in him, and sa3-s, that he finds in his flesh 
no good thing, etc. 

That, however, some have here raised the ques- 
tion, and pointedly asked whether it is sinful for a 
man to desire to marry a woman or for a woman to 


desire to marry a man, is silly, and both questions 
are contrary to Scripture and to nature. For when 
should people marry, if they would not have desire 
and love for one another? Yes, that is the reason 
why God has given this eager desire to bride and 
bridegroom, otherwise every one would flee from 
and avoid marriage. Thus he has also commanded 
in the Scriptures, that both, man and woman, 
should love each other, and he shows that he is 
greatly pleased when husband and wife are well 
adapted to each other. Therefore this desire and 
love must surely not be lacking, and it is very for- 
tunate and agreeable if it only lasts a long while. 
For without this, trouble comes, hoih/rom the flesh 
that one soon becomes tired of this state, and is 
unwilling to bear the discomfort that comes with 
it; and also fro7n the devil^ who cannot bear to see 
two married people treating each other with true 
affection, and does not rest until he gives occasion 
to impatience, strife, hatred and bitterness between 
them; so that it is an art not alone necessary, but 
also difficult, and peculiar to Christians, to love 
one's wife or husband properly, so that one may 
bear the faults of the other and all sorts of carnal 
misfortune. At first it all goes very well, so that 
for love (as it is said) they are ready to eat each 
other up; but when the novelty is over, then comes 
the devil with satiety, and tries to rob you too 
much of desire in this direction, and excite it too 
much in another. 


Let this suffice for the topic of lust aud desire. '» 
But what are we to say about the way Christ spans \ 
the bow wheu he says that we are to phick out the 
eye and cut off the hand if it offends us? Are we 
then to cripple ourselves, make ourselves lame and 
blind ? Then we would have to take our own life, 
and every one become a self murderer. For if we 
must throw away everything that offends us, we ; 
would have first of all to tear out our heart. But I 
what else would that be than to destroy all nature { 
and the creatures of God. Answer: here you see ? 
clearly that Christ in this chapter is speaking not 
at all of mere worldly affairs, and that all such ex- i 
pressions that occur here and there in the Gospel ; 
(such as to deny one's self, hate one's soul, forsake 
everything, etc.,) do not belong at all to the sphere 
of secular affairs or the civil government, nor are to 
be understood according to the statutes of the old 
Saxons, as the jurists call them, to pluck out eyes, 
to cut off the hand, and such like; or how could 
this life and civil government endure? But he is 
speaking here of spiritual life and spiritual affairs, 
in which one does not externally, corporeally, and 
in the sight of the world, throw away his eye or 
his hand, deny himself and forsake all things, but 
in his heart and in God's sight. For he is not-f 
teaching how to use the fist or the sword, or to J 
control life and property, but only the heart and j 
conscience before God ; therefore we are not at all [ 


to apply his words in the sense of the legal terms 
or those of secular government. 

In this way he speaks also in Matt. xix. 12, about 
castrating, where he alludes to three kinds of cas- 
trated ones or eunuchs. The first and second are 
such as are eunuchs naturally or are made such by 
the hands of men; these the world and the jurists 
call castrated. But the third kind are such as 
have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of 
heaven's, sake ; these are called castrated, not ex- 
ternally, in their body, but in heart or spiritually; 
not in a worldly sense or manner, but (as he sa^.s) 
for heav^en's sake. For with worldly matters he 
has nothing to do. Thus also here, we are spiritu- 
ally .to tear out eyes, hand, heart, and let every- 
thing go, that it may not offend us; and yet live in 
this world, where we cannot do without any of 
these things. 

This is now what is here meant: If thou feelest 
that thou art looking at a woman with an evil de- 
sire, then tear out that same eye or sight (as being 
forbidden by God) not of the body, but of the heart, 
from which lustful desire comes; then thou hast 
rightly plucked it out. For if the evil desire is 
out of the heart, then the eye will not sin, nor 
offend thee, and thou lookest now upon that woman 
with the same bodily eyes, but without desire; thou 
wilt be just as if thou hadst not seen her. For the 
eye of which Christ speaks, which was there be- 


fore, and is called the eye of lust or desire, is no 
longer there, although the bodily eye remains un- 
injured. Thus he speaks also about the castrated. 
If the heart has resolved to live chastely without 
marriage (if it has grace) then it has made itself a 
eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and does 
not need to injure any member of the body. In 
short, it is such a castrating and plucking out that 
neither a fist nor a hangman can do, but the word 
of God in the heart. 

Therefore those are fools who transfer these and 
similar sayings from the spiritual to the secular 
sphere, as if Christ had taught what was contrary 
to secular rule, yes, contrary to the natural order of 
things. Therefore some have made such fools of 
themselves that, through impatience and despair 
of being able to fight against flesh and blood, they 
have gone so far as to help [i. e. castrate?] them- 
selves, so that the bishops in the councils had to 
forbid the practice. That all comes of a misunder- 
standing, that they do not distinguish between the 
ruling and doctrine of Christ and of the world; they 
abide by the gross conception of castration, so that 
they think no further than how the world desig- 
nates and understands it in its sphere : whilst 
Christ himself excludes this understandine of it, 
and takes it away, and distinguishes those who are 
castrated by nature or by human hands (whether 
by their own or those of others,) and contrasts them 

164 Luther's commentary on the 

with those who are castrated neither by men's 
hands nor by nature; whereby he clearly shows that 
he is speaking alone of spiritual castration, since 
the body wiih all its members is entire and unin- 
jured, and yet has not sexual desire as others 
have, which cannot be cut out of flesh and blood, 
even though one were to rob himself of his natural 
members: as they say themselves, that such eu- 
nuchs or castrated persons have more desire for or 
love to women than any others; therefore also 
great kings (or queens) have preferred such per- 
sons as chamberlains, on account of the great 
fidelity and love they have for women. 

But it appears also, that Christ often on other oc- 
casions used this expression : ' 'If thine eye, or hand, 
or foot, offend thee." For they are applied else- 
where in the gospel, also to other matters, in such 
a way that he used it as a common saying, and ap- 
plied it as a common comparison to all kinds of sin, 
that one should not yield to the occasion and incli- 
nation to sin; here, however, it is significantly ap- 
plied to a particular case, namely, to adultery, so 
that the command is to pluck out the e)e that is 
about to offend us by evil desire: for adultery is 
commonly occasioned by looking, and comes into 
the heart through the eyes, if one does not resist 
the temptation. Thus he employs the same words 
with reference to another mode of giving offence, 
(Matt, xviii. 8 sq.) so that he calls it an offending 


eye or hand, if a preacher and teacher, or a lord 
and tyrant, seeks to mislead thee from the truth and 
true doctrine; and he bids thee to tear it out and 
cast it from thee, so that one may say : Thou art it 
is true my eye or hand, my master or ruler; but if 
thou wishest to turn me from the truth to false 
faith, or to compel me to do evil, I will not follow 
thee, etc. 

V. 31, 32. It hath beeti said, Whosoever shall 'put away his 
wife, let him give her a writing 0/ divorcement : but I say unto 
you, That whosoever shall put aivay his wife, saving for the 
cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adtdtery : and who- 
soever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. 

Here we see clearly how they wrested this com- 
mandment, giving- room and liberty enough to 
violate it, and yet not counting their conduct sin- 
ful, if they only did not make too glaring an exhi- 
bition of it by open adultery; for they were per- 
mitted, if one disliked his wife and wanted to be 
rid of her, and had become fond of another woman, 
that he might leave her and court another that 
better pleased him; and, although the latter had 
another husband, they could easily induce him to 
dismiss his wife, so that he had to put her away, 
and yet she should not be said to be taken by 
violence. Thus it was also a small matter among 
them, whether one had had sexual intercourse 
with another woman, so that he thereby took 
her to wife; as they at any rate wanted to have 


more than one wife; and they had indeed bronght 
things to such a pass that every one without quahns 
of conscience acted in the matter of marriage and 
divorce just as he pleased. Therefore, Jesus takes 
up also this matter of divorce, rebukes and con- 
demns their knavery and abuse of the permitted 
divorce, to instruct their consciences how one is 
properly to proceed in this matter, so that one does 
not go too. far and act contrary to the command- 
ment. He touches upon it here, however, only in 
a few words; for afterwards, in the nineteenth 
chapter, he discusses it more at large. 

How are we now, however, to proceed in matters 
pertaining to marriage and divorce? I have said 
that we are to leave this in the hands of the jurists, 
and committed to the secular government, because 
marriage is quite a secular, external thing, as wife, 
child, house and home, and other things that be- 
long to the authority of the government, as this is 
altogether subject to the reason. Genesis I. There- 
fore, what the civil authority and wise people de- 
termine and ordain in reference to this matter ac- 
cording to right and reason, with that we should be 
content. For also Christ does not here appoint or 
ordain anything as a jurist or ruler, in external 
matters; but only as a preacher he instructs the 
consciences so that we rightly use the law concern- 
ing divorce, not for knavery and personal wanton- 
ness, contrary to the command of God. Therefore 


we will not here go any further than to see how the 
matter stood among them, and how those should 
conduct themselves who wish to be Christians; for 
with those who are not Christians we have nothing 
to do (as those who must be governed not with the 
Gospel but with compulsion and punishment), so 
that we may keep our office pure, and not grasp 
after more than is committed to us. 

In Deuteronomy xxiv. i and 4 we read: "When a 
man hath taken a wife and married her, and it 
come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, be- 
cause he hath found some uncleanness in her; 
then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and 
give it in her hand," etc.; but a prohibition is at 
once appended to this, that the same man (if he 
afterwards would like to have her again) " may not 
take her again to be his wife," etc. Now, this law 
they soon learned, and bravely abused, so that 
every one easily discarded and dismissed his wife, 
when he was tired of her, and longed for another 
(though Moses allowed such dismissal only 
when he found "some uncleanness in her" on 
account of which they could not well remain to- 
gether); and they took such liberties in this matter 
that they themselves saw that their custom was 
blameworthy and quite too wanton, and they 
therefore asked Christ, Matt. xix. 3: "Is it law- 
ful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" 
He orives them an answer, too, and reads them a 

i6S luthkr's commkntary on the 

sharp text besides, which they had never heard be- 
fore, and concludes just as here, that both he who 
gives the bill of divorcement (except for fornica- 
tion), and marries another, commits adultery, and 
decides that she also commits adultery who marries 
another. (For otherwise she could not commit 
adultery, if she remained unmarried.) Thereby 
he not only rebukes them for acting wantonly in 
the matter of divorcement, but teaches that they 
should not practice divorcement at all, or, if they 
do, both parties should remain unmarried, and 
concludes that divorcing is always a cause of 

To their question, "Why did Moses then allow 
such divorcement?" he answers: "Because of the 
hardness of your hearts Moses suffered you to put 
away your wives." Not that it was commendable 
or well done ; but that you are such vile and rude 
people, that it is better to allow this than that you 
do worse, cause miser}' or murder, or live together 
in perpetual hatred, discord and enmity: as it yet 
might even be advisable (if the temporal authori- 
ties should so order it), on account of some queer, 
self-willed, stubborn people, who are never satisfied 
with an}-thing, and are not at all adapted for mar- 
ried life, that they should be allowed to separate 
from one another. For government cannot other- 
wise be carried on; on account of the badness of 
the people one must often yield something, though 



it be not well done, lesy something worse may 

Thus it is now settled, that those who want to 
be Christians are not £0 be divorced, but each to 
retain his or her spouse, and bear and experience 
good and evil with the same, although he or she 
may be strange, peculiar and faulty; or, if there be 
a divorce, that the parties remain unmarried; -and 
that it will not do to make a free thing out of mar- 
riage, as if it were in olir power to do with it, 
changing and exchanging, as we please; but it is 
just as Jesus says: "What God has joined together 
let not man put asunder." 

For trouble here is owing solely to the fact that 
men do not regard marriage according to God's 
word as his work and ordinance, do not pay regard 
to his will, that he has given to every one his 
spouse, to keep her, and to endure for his sake the 
discomforts that married life brings with it; they 
regard it as nothing else than a mere human, secu- 
lar affair, with which God has nothing to do. 
Therefore one soon becomes tired of it, and if it does 
not go as we wish, we soon begin to separate and 
change. Then God nevertheless so orders it, that 
we thereby make it no better; as it then gener- 
ally happens, if one wants to change and improve 
matters, and no one wants to carry his cross, but 
have everything perfectly convenient and without 
discomfort, that he gets an exchange in which he 


finds twice or ten times more discomfort, not alone 
in this matter but in all others. 
. For it cannot be otherwise upon earth ; there must 
daily much inconvenience and discomfort occur in 
ev'ery house, city and country; and there is no condi- 
tion upon earth in which one must not have much 
to endure that is painful, both from those that be- 
long to him, as wife, child, servants, subjects, and 
externally from neighbor's and all kinds of acci- 
dental mishaps. When now one sees and feels this, 
he is soon tired of his condition and discontented 
with it, or breaks out with impatience, scolding and 
cursing ; and if he cannot avoid or get rid of this 
annoyance, he will change his condition, thinks 
every one's condition and state better than his own, 
and when he has been long changing about he 
finds he has been going farther and faring worse. 
For to change is soon and easily done ; but to im- 
prove is doubtful and rare. This was the case, too, 
with the Jews in their marriage changings and 

Therefore in this matter we ought to do as we 
have always taught and exhorted: If one wants to 
undertake anything that he wishes to be blessed 
and successful, also in temporal affairs, as in mar- 
rying, remaining at home, accepting a position, 
etc., that he appeal to God and seek counsel from 
him who is to give it, and whose it is. For it is 
not a trifling gift of God, if one gets a pious, toler- 


ably good wife: why should you not then pray to 
him that he may cause it to turn out well? For the 
first eager and curious desire will not accomplish 
this, or give permanence, if he does not add his 
blessing and give success, and help to bear the 
occasional discomfort. Therefore, those who do 
not do this, but rush into things of their own ac- 
cord, as if they needed no help from God, and do 
not learn to adapt themselves to circumstances, 
they deservedly realize in them a real purgatory 
and hellish torment, without the devil's help ; and 
because they bear no trouble with patience, but 
have selected just what suited them best, and want 
to set aside and ignore the article that is called for- 
giveness of sin; they have as a reward a restless, 
impatient heart, and so must suffer double misfor- 
tune and get no thanks for it. But we have said 
enough of this elsewhere. 

But you ask: Is there then no reason for which 
there may be separation and divorce between man 
and wife? Answer: Christ states here^and in 
Matthew xix. 9, only this one, which is called 
adultery, and he quotes it from the law of Moses, 
which punishes adultery with death. Since now 
death alone dissolves marriages and releases from 
the obligation, am adulterer is already divorced not 
by man but by God himself, and not only cut loose 
from his spouse, but from this life. For by adul- 
terv he has divorced himself from his wife, and has 



dissolved the marriage, which he has no right to do; 
and he has thereby made himself worthy of death, 
in such a way that he is already dead before God, 
although the judge does not take his life. Because 
now God here divorces, the other party is fully 
released, so that he or she is not bound to keep the 
spouse that has proved unfaithful, however much 
he or she may desire it. 

For we do not order or forbid this divorcing, but 
we ask the government to act in this matter, and 
we submit to what the secular authorities ordain in 
regard to it. Yet, our advice would be to such as 
claim to be Christians, that it would be much 
better to exhort and urge both parties to remain to- 
gether, and that the innocent party should become 
reconciled to the guilty (if humbled and reformed) 
and exercise forgiveness in Christian love; unless 
no improvement could be hoped for, or the guilty 
person who had been pardoned and restored to 
favor persisted in abusing this kindness, and still 
continued in leading a public, loose life, and took 
it for granted that one must continue to spare and 
forgive him. . In such case I would not advise or 
order that mercy should be shown, but would 
rather help to have such a person scourged or im- 
prisoned. For to make a misstep once is still to be 
forgiven, but to sin presuming upon mercy and for- 
giveness is not to be endured. For, as before said, 
we know already that it is not right to compel one 


to take back again a public whore or adulterer, if 
he is unwilling to do it, or out of disgust cannot do 
it. For we read of Joseph, Matt. i. 18 sq. , that al- 
though he was a pious man, yet he was not willing 
" to take unto him Mary his espoused wife " (when 
he saw that she was pregnant); and was praised be- 
cause "he was minded to put her away privily," 
and not lodge complaint against her and have her 
executed, as he might well have done.,] 

In addition to this cause of divorce there is still 
another: if one of a married couple forsakes the 
other, as when one through sheer petulance deserts 
the other. So, if a heathen woman were married 
to a Christian, or, as now sometimes happens, that 
one of the parties is evangelical and the other not 
(concerning which Paul speaks in i Cor. vii. 13), 
whether in such a case divorce would be right? 
There Paul concludes: If the one party is willing 
to remain, the other should not break the eng-ao-e- 
ment; although they are not of one faith, the faith 
should not dissolve the marriage tie. But if it 
happens that the other party absolutely will not re- 
main, then let him or her depart; and thou art not 
under any obligation to follow. But if a fellow de- 
serts his wife without her knowledge or consent, 
forsakes house, home, wife and child, stays away 
two or three years, or as long as he pleases (as now 
often happens), and when he has run his riotous 
course and squandered his substance and wants 


to come home again and take his old place, that 
the other party ninst be nnder obligation to wait 
for him as long as he chooses, and then take up 
with him again: such a fellow ought not only to be 
forbidden house and home, but should be banished 
from the country, and the other party, if the rene- 
gade has been summoned and long enough waited 
for, should be heartily pronounced free. 

For such a one is much worse than a heathen 
and unbeliever, and is less to be endured than a 
miserable adulterer, who, though he once fell, can 
still reform again and be faithful as before to his 
wife; but this one treats marriage just as he pleases, 
does not feel himself under any obligation to abide 
as husband and father with wife and children and 
perform his duty toward them, but holds himself 
sure of a safe reception if the notion takes him to 
return. But this is the state of the case: He who 
wishes to have wife and cliild must stay with them, 
share with them good and evil, as long as he lives; 
or if he will not, that we teach him that he must do 
it or be entirely separated from wife, house and 
home. But where these causes do not exist, their 
other defects and faults are not to be counted a hin- 
drance or lead to a divorce, such as quarrels or 
other mishaps. But if parties are divorced (says 
St. Paul), then let them on both sides remain un- 

Let this suffice for what is said on this subject in 


the text, for I liave elsewhere written enough about 
it. The chief safeguard against such divorce and 
other domestic trouble is (as I have said) that every 
one learn to bear with patience common faults and 
mishaps in his condition and surroundings, and to 
overlook them in his wife, and be assured that we 
cannot have everything just right as we would 
have it. Why you cannot have it otherwise or 
better in your own body, and must put up with all 
sorts of filth and disagreeableness that it daily 
causes you; so that if you were to throw away 
everything that is unclean about it, you would have 
to begin with the belly that nourishes you and has 
to keep you alive. 

If now you can endure this in your body, so that 
it makes a stench for you before you are aware of 
it, or begins to suppurate and ulcerate, so that 
there is no purity in your skin, and you make due 
allowance for all this; yes, you show all the more 
care and love for it by waiting upon it, washing it, 
enduring and helping where anything is wanting; 
why should you not do it- here in the case of your 
own spouse whom God has given you, in whom you 
have a still greater treasure and whom you have 
more cause to love? For there ought to be such 
love among Christians as that of each member of 
the body towards every other (as St. Paul often re- 
marks), when one kindly regards the faults of an- 
other, himself sympathizes with them, endures and 


removes them, and does all he can to help his 
neighbor. Therefore, onr principal duty is no- 
thing else than simple forgiveness of sin, both in 
ourselves and toward others; so that, as Christ in 
his kingdom without intermission is bearing with 
and forgiving all manner of faults, so also we among 
ourselves bear and forgive in all conditions and in 
all things. May God allot to him who will not do 
this, that he may never have rest, and make his 
single misfortune or plague ten times worse. 

^- 33-37- A,<^ai?i, ye have heard that it hath been said by 
them 0/ old ti>ne, Thou shall not forswear thyself, but shall per- 
form unto the Lord thine oaths : Btit I say nnto you. Swear 
not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne: nor by the 
earth, for it is his footstool; neither by fcrusalem, for it is the 
city of the ^reat King. Neither shall thou swear by thy head, 
because thou catist not wake one hair black or white. But let 
your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatever is 
more than these comelh of evil. 

This text has been spun out with many glosses, 
and many a queer notion and error has been drawn 
from it, so that many great doctors have been wor- 
ried about it, and could not become reconciled to 
the blunt prohibition here that we are to "Swear 
not at all," but "let your communication be Yea, 
yea, and Nay, nay." So that some have stretched 
their conscience so tightly, that one doubts whether 
one ought to take a solemn oath not to avenge him- 
self when he is set free from prison, or whether we 
are by an oath to make peace and a treaty with the 


Tuil:s or unbelievers, etc. Now we cannot deny 
that Christ himself and St. Paul often took an 
oath; besides, it is said, in the Scriptures, that those 
are praised who swear by his name; so that also 
here we must make a distinction, so that we rightly 
understand the text. 

But we have been told sufficiently, that Christ I 
does not wish here to interfere with the secular au- j 
thority and ordinance, nor to detract at all from the j 
powers that be ; but he is preaching here only for 1 
the individual Christians, how they are to conduct 
themselves in their ordinary life. Therefore we 
are to regard the swearing as forbidden in exactly j 
the same sense as above the killing and the looking j 
upon or desiring a woman. Killing is right, and i 
yet it is also wrong; to desire a man or a woman is 1 
sin, and it is not sin; but in this way, that we I 
rightly distinguish both, namely, that it is said to , 
)ou and to me: if you kill, you do wrong; if you ■ 
look at a woman to desire her, you do wrong. But 
to a judge he says: If you do not punish and kill, i 
you shall yourself be punished; likewise to a mar- \ 
ried man or woman : If you do not cleave to your \ 
spouse, you do wrong. So both are right, that one 
is to kill and not to kill, to be and not to be with ■ 
a woman; namely, that you do not be wrathful or , 
kill, or look lovingly upon a woman, unless you are 
specially authorized by God's word or command to ! 
do so. If you are wrathful, however, when God 


178 luthkr's commentary ox the 

coinniauds yon, or if you have a wife according to 
the word of God, then each is right ; for what God 
says and commands is a very different thing from 
when yon do it of your own accord. 

As you have understood that, so understand this 
also; that the prohibition here is, "Swear not at 
all," just as he has entirely forbidden killing, so 
that there may be no wrath in the heart; in like 
manner, that we shall keep so aloof from man and 
woman as not to be looking at them, or thinking 
upon them to desire them. And it would be a 
dangerous sermon if we were to apply it to the ex- 
ercise of governmental authority or to married life, 
and were to say to the judge. Thou shalt not be- 
come indignant, or give practical proof of wrath; 
or to a wedded pair, Thou shalt not look upon 
or love thy wife or husband: but we must turn 
about here and teach the opposite, saying: Thou 
judge shalt be angry and punish; and every one 
shall have and love his spouse. How then does 
Christ say one must desire no woman, and have no 
wrath in his heart? Answer, as said above, he is 
speaking of the woman that God has not given 
you, and of the wrath that is not demanded of you, 
that you are not to have. But if it is demanded of 
you, then it is no longer yours, but it is God's 
wrath, and no longer your desire, but that which is 
given and ordained by God; for you have God's 
word for it that you shall love your spouse and not 


desire any other. Thus also in regard to swearing; 
we must see to it, if we have God's word for it or 

That he here insists so mnch upon the prohibi- 
tion, that he does also in opposition to their false 
teachers, who preached in this way, that taking an 
oath and swearing, although done needlessly and 
without the word of God, was not sin; yes, they 
had made a distinction (as Christ here shows) how 
one might swear freely, and what oaths should be 
valid or not; as, that one might readily swear by 
heaven, or by Jerusalem, or by his head; that those 
were little oaths, and did not have much validity, 
if only the name of God were not invoked; they 
had indeed at last carried it so far that a mere yea 
or nay was of no account, and they held that it 
mattered nothing if they did not do anything which 
they had not sworn to do; just as they had taught 
in regard to killing, that one should not consider a 
secret anger and spite as sin; the same also, if one 
were hostile to his wife, had no desire for her or 
love for her, but had desire for another and proved 
this by looking at her and sporting with her, and 
by other signs. 

Against such impure saints he began to preach, 
and says: If you do not become different and more 
pious you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 
The matter of swearing must not be treated as you 
are doing, who make it right and valid where and 


when you choose; but the couiuiand is, You are 
not to swear at all, neither by the temple, nor by 
Jerusalem, nor by your head, as little as by God him- 
self; but let your dealings with each other be yea 
and nay, and abide by that. For that is an abuse 
of the name of God, if one to the yea or nay adds 
oaths and swearing, as if a mere yea and nay were 
not valid or binding unless the name of God were 
added. There is also a further abuse, that people 
swear so thoughtlessly, as is now so commonly 
done, when they use the name of God with almost 
every word. That must all be strictly forbidden; 
as also cursing that is done in God's name, if it 
must not be done. 

For cursing is just like swearing, both being 
good and bad. For we read in Scripture that often 
holy people have cursed; thus, Noah curses his one 
son, Ham, and the patriarch Jacob pronounced an 
evil blessing and a curse upon his three sons, 
Reuben, Levi and Simeon, also Moses agaiust 
Korah; yes, Christ himself bitterly curses in the 
psalter his Judas, and in the Gospel the false 
teachers; and Paul, Gal. i. 9, curses all teachers 
who preach otherwise (even if it were an angel 
from heaven), that they shall be anathema, that 
is, condemned aud cursed by God; as if we should 
say: Let God oppose them and totally destroy them, 
and give them no mercy or good fortune. So the 
time may come when one must curse, or do wrong. 


Thus, that we should now ask God's blessing upon 
pope, bishops and princes and wish them success, 
whilst they with malicious schemes and wicked 
plottings are seeking to shed the blood of pious 
people and to throw Germany into confusion; that 
Christians should not do, but should and must say 
in regard to it: Dear Lord, curse, and hurl all their 
scheming to the bottom of hell. Hence, no one 
can rightly pray the Lord's prayer without imply- 
ing a curse. For, when he prays: Hallowed be\ 
thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, 
etc., he must gather up in a mass everything that 
is antagonistic, and say: Cursed, execrated, dis- 
graced be all other names, and rent asunder and 
destroyed be all kingdoms that are opposed to thee, 
gone to ruin be all hostile schemes, wisdom and 
purposes, etc. 

This, however, is the distinction: Of himself no 
one is to curse or swear, unless he has God's word 
for it, that he must curse or swear. For, as above 
said, where it is done in accordance with the word 
of God, then it is all right to swear, to be angry, to 
desire one's wife, etc. But it is in accordance with 
the word of God, if he orders me to do it by vir- 
tue of my office and on his account, or demands it 
through those who are in office. Thus, that we 
may understand it by an illustration, if it should 
happen that thou art imprisoned, and in the hands 
of the authorities, and they would demand of thee 


an oath not to seek for vengeance against them ; or, 
if a prince demands an oath of allegiance; or a 
judge demands an oath from a witness; then it is 
your duty to take the oath. For there stands the 
word, that thou shalt obey the powers that be. For 
God has so ordained and established government, 
that one must be under obligations to another, so 
that all questionable matters may be adjusted, de- 
cided and settled by the use of the oath, as the 
epistle to the Hebrews teaches. 

But do you say; Yes, but here stands a different 
word, that Christ says: Thou shalt not swear. 
Answer, as above said concerning killing and being 
angry: Thou, thou shalt not do it, as for thyself. 
Here, however, it is not thou that swearest, but the 
judge who orders thee to do it, and it amounts to 
the same thing as if he did it himself, and thou art 
now the mouth of the judge. Now Christ here 
neither commands nor forbids anvthino- to the gov- 
ernment, but lets it take its own course as it is 
bound to do; but he forbids you to swear of your 
own account, arbitrarily or from habit; just as 
he forbids to draw the sword, yet does not thereby 
prevent your being obedient to the government, 
if your prince had need of your services, or 
would summon you to go to war; for then you are 
bound to enter heartily into the work of the war, 
and it is no longer your hand or sword, but that of 
the government; and you are not doing it yourself, 


but your prince, to whom God has committed it. 
Thus we speak also in similar cases. As, if it 
should come to pass, that we would make a treaty 
and concord with our enemies or the Turks, then 
the emperor and princes could both give and take 
an oath, although the Turk swears by the devil or 
his Mahomet, whom he regards and worships as his 
God, but we worship our Lord Christ and swear by 
him. Thus you have now a cause, for which it is 
right to swear, namely, the necessity of taking an 
oath from obedience to the government, to confirm 
the truth or to endure things for the sake of peace 
and harmony. 

The other reason is love, though it be not de- 
manded by the powers that be, but is done out of 
kindness to a neighbor, etc., just as also love is 
wrathful and rebukes, when it sees a neighbor sin 
or go astray; as Christ teaches in Matt, xviii. 15. 
For it cannot laugh at this or praise what is evil. 
Thus I may very well show love to the wife of an- 
other man, if she be in need or distress, that I may 
help her out of it; that is not a carnal, forbidden 
love, but one that is Christian, brotherly, that 
springs not from my own lust or indiscretion, but 
because of ni}^ neighbor's need; and it has the sanc- 
tion of God's word, which says: "Thou shalt love 
thy neighbor as thyself." 

Accordingly, if I see any one in spiritual need 
and danger, weak in faith, or conscientiously 


fearful, or seriously doubting, and so forth, then I 
am not alone to comfort, but to asseverate besides, 
to strengthen his conscience by saying: As sure as 
God lives and Christ died, so surely this is the truth 
and the word of God. There an oath is so needful 
that we cannot do without it. For by that the true 
doctrine is established, the erring and timid con- 
science is instructed and comforted, and delivered 
from the devil. Therefore in such a case you may 
swear just as hard as you can. Thus Christ and 
Paul swore, and called God to witness. Thus an 
oath is suited to every threatening or promise that 
a Christian preacher preaches, both in alarming 
hardened sinners and comforting the timid. 

In the same way, if one is to vindicate his neigh- 
bor or rescue his honor in opposition to bad, ma- 
licious tongues, one may also say: Before the dear 
God you are wrongly accusing him, etc. For this 
is to use God's name aright, to the honor of God 
and the truth, and for our neighbor's benefit and 
salvation. For in such a case you have the word 
and command hovering over you, that orders you 
to love your neighbor, to rebuke* the disorderly, to 
comfort the sad, etc. ; and because it is commanded 
it cannot be wrong, yes, it even urges you to swear, 
and you do wrong if you neglect to do it. 

In short,. if you have the word of God [on your 
side], then may God give you grace right away to 
swear, to rebuke, to be angry, and to do all that 


you can. But whatever is aside from this, not 
commanded, nor for your neighbor's need or ad- 
vantage, in that case you should do none of these 
things. For God wants nothing at all that you do 
of )'our own motion, without his sanction, be it 
what it may, even if one could raise the dead. 
Much less will he tolerate it, that one should abuse 
his name, appealing to it when there is no need or 
occasion for it, or that one daily at home and every 
where else use it improperly, as is now done, when 
men swear with all they say, especially in beer- 
houses, so that it were well if this were strictly for- 
bidden and punished. Thus you have a proper, 
clear understanding of this matter, so that one need 
not vex himself in vain in regard to this text and 
make a purgatory out of it when there is none. 

Now Christ says: I say to you, Swear not at all, 
neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jeru- 
salem. Here we see, the city was held in high 
esteem and honor, so that they swore by it; and he 
confirms this, and calls it a city of God, and it is else- 
where also called the holy city. It was holy, how- 
ever, for this reason, that God's word was there, and 
through that God himself dwelt there; and it was 
a good custom, and no doubt inaugurated by good 
people, that the city was so highly esteemed, (as 
the prophet Isaiah also gloriously praises it), not 
for its own sake, but on account of the word. Ac- 
cordingly we may well call every city holy that has 
the word of God, and boast that God is really there. 


But that he says: Thou shalt not swear by thy 
head, for thou canst not make one hair white or 
black, that he says concerning his creature, not 
concerning the use we make of it: For he does not 
mean to say that we cannot powder our hair that 
it may become black or some other color; but that 
it is not in our power to bring out a hair that is 
white or black, nor can we prevent it from becom- 
ing thus or otherwise. But when it has grown, 
then we can cut it off altogether or burn it; just as 
we can to some extent change one created thing 
by means of another, but we cannot take any part 
iu having it created so or otherwise. Thus he 
makes our own head a sanctuary, as that which is 
not of our work or power, but the gift and creature 
of God. 

That he now concludes: "Let your speech be 
Yea, yea; Nay, nay," etc., that he plainly addresses 
to such as have no command or occasion to swear. 
For (as was said) of his own accord no one should 
swear at all. But when these two features are 
added, command or necessity, then you are not 
asked to swear for yourself; for you do it not of 
your own accord, but on his account who demands 
it of you, namely, your governmental authority, or 
the need of your neighbor, or God's command. 

V. 38-42. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an 
eye and a tooth for a tooth : but I say unto you, that ye resist 
not evil : but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn 


to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, 
and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And who- 
soever shall compel thee logo a mile, go with him twain. Give 
to him that asketh thee, and from that would borrow of thee turn 
not thou away. 

This text also lias been the occasion of much in- 
quiry and error to nearly all the teachers who have; 
not known how to distinguish rightly between sec-i 
ularand spiritual matters, between the kingdom of ; 
Christ and of the world. For when these two are' 
confounded and not clearly and accurately sepa- 
rated, these matters can never be correctly under- 
stood in Christendom, as I have often said and 
shown. Now we have thus far heard nothing else 
than that Christ directed his teaching against the 
Pharisees, who were misleading the people, both 
by their teaching and their way of living, and were 
misinterpreting and perverting God's command in 
such a way that the outcome was only sham saints, 
as it is to this day. For we find always among the 
preachers some (if not the majority) such Jewish 
saints, who teach nothing more than about sin and 
piety in external works. 

As now in previous passages he rebuked and re- 
jected their teaching and false interpretation, he 
here also takes up the passage, that stands recorded 
in the law of Moses, for those to whom was com- 
mitted governmental authority, and who were to 
punish with the sword^ that they should and had 
to take eye for eye and tooth for tooth ; in such a 


(way, that they sinned just as heavily if they failed 
]to use the commanded sword and punishment, as 
(did the others who seized the sword and took re- 
(venge themselves, without command: as in former 
passages, he who did not dwell and abide with his 
wife, to whom he had been married, sinned just as 
much as he who dwelt unmarried with another 
woman. That they now had perverted and con- 
founded, so that they applied to themselves this 
text, that was meant only for the authorities, and 
they interpreted it in such a way, that also every 
one might take vengeance upon his own responsi- 
bility, take eye for eye, etc., just as they had con- 
founded matters in other passages, and applied to 
themselves the being angry, which belongs to and 
was enjoined upon the authorities; also they had 
toru away from its connection with married life the 
carnal desire; in the same way, too, they had per- 
verted swearing, aside from its proper use in time 
of need and for purposes of love, to their own 
trivial habit and other abuses. 

■ Now comes Christ and overturns this perverted, 
I false notion and theory, gives the authorities their 
I due, but teaches his Christians, so distinctly as in- 
I dividuals, aside from official position and authority, 
■' how they are to live, personally, that they desire 
' no revenge, and that they be so disposed, if one 
smites them on one cheek, that they may be ready, 
i if necessary, to turn to him the other also, and not 


only refrain from taking revenge with the fist, but \ 
also in heart, with their thoughts and all their 
faculties. In short, he calls for a heart that is not 
impatient, revengeful or disposed to break the 
peace. This is now a righteousness very different 
from what they taught and held, and yet they 
wanted to deck themselves out with texts from 
Moses, that one might readily avenge himself and 
oflfer resistance, if he were violently attacked, be- 
cause it stands in the text: An eye for an eye, a 
tooth for a tooth, etc. 

Now many people have stumbled at this saying, 
and not only the Jews, but even Christians, have 
stumbled at it. For it seemed to them too strict 
and hard, that one must not resist evil at all, since 
we must have law and punishment among us; and 
some have quoted in opposition the example of 
Christ, John xviii. 23, when he was smitten on the 
one cheek, before the priest Annas, and yet did not 
offer the other, but asserted his innocence and re- 
buked the servant of the priest, which seems in 
violation of this text. Therefore they said that it 
was not necessary to turn the other cheek to the 
smiter, and they came to the relief of the text in 
this way, that it is enough that one is ready at 
heart to offer also the other; which may not be un- 
truthfully said, but was not rightly understood. 
For they suppose that to offer the other cheek to 
the smiter means that one must say to him: See, 


thou hast this cheek too, and smite me again; or 
that we are to throw the cloak to him who wants 
to take the coat. If that were the meaning, then 
we would have to give up at last house and home, 
wife and child. Therefore we say that here no 
more is intended than that every Christian is 
taught that he must be willing and patient to suffer 
whatever is necessary, and not seek revenge or 
strike back. 

•But still the question and dispute here remain, 
whether one is to suffer all sorts of things from 
everybody, and- in no case make any resistance; 
also if we are not to contend or complain before 
the court, or to claim or demand one's own. For 
if this were absolutely forbidden, there would be a 
strange state of affairs, so that one would have to 
submit to everybody's caprice and insolence, and 
no one could be safe from another, or keep any- 
thing, and at last there would thus be no govern- 
ment at all. 

To answer this, thou must always observe this 
main point, that Christ is preaching for his Chris^ 
tians alone, and means to teach them what kind of 
people they are to be, in contrast with the carnal 
notions and thoughts which then were still cleav- 
ing to the apostles, who supposed that he would 
establish a new government and empire, and give 
them places in it, so that they might rule as lords, 
and bring into subjection to them their enemies 


and the evil world; as indeed flesh and blood 
always wishes and seeks in the gospel that it may 
have its rule, honor and advantage, and have noth- 
ing to suffer; after this, too, the pope has hankered, 
and has come to rule in such a way that his estab-j 
lishment has become a mere secular government, 
and one so dreaded that the whole world has to be 
subject to him. 

So we now see, too, that all the world is seeking 
its own in the gospel [is selfishly using the gospel], 
and thus so many sects and parties arise, that aim 
at nothing else than how they can push themselves 
forward and make masters of themselves, and crush 
out others; as Miinzer began with his peasants, 
and as others have shown who imitated his exam- 
ple. And even real Christians are tempted in the 
same way, when they see things goi'ng so badly in 
the world, even in their own sphere, so that they 
feel like laying hold and managing things. But it 
ought not to be so, and no one should think that 
God wants to let us govern and rule with secular 
law and punishment; but the deportment of Chris- 
tians should be totally different from this, so that 
they have nothing to do with such things or even 
to care about them, but should let those to whom 
such things are committed care for the division of 
property, trading, punishing, protecting, etc., and 
be content with their disposal of them; as Christ 
teaches: Give to Caesar the things which are Cae- 


sar's. For we are transferred to a different, higher 
sphere, which is a divine, eternal kingdom, where 
we need none of the things that belong to the world, 
bnt every one is in Christ a lord for himself, both 
over devil and world, as has been told elsewhere. 

Those now who are part of this same secnlar 
administration, must necessarily have control of 
right and punishment, and observe the distinction 
of rank, of persons, dispose of and divide property, 
so that all things are well-ordered, and every one 
may know what he is to do and have; and no one 
should interfere in the office of another, nor impose 
upon another, or take what belongs to him. For 
these things we have lawyers, who are to teach this 
and manage such matters. But the gospel has 
nothing to do with such things, but teaches how 
the heart is to stand related to God; and in all such 
matters it should be so disposed that it remains 
pure, and does not stumble upon a false righteous- 
ness. This distinction mark and observe care- 
fully, as being the very foundation principle in ac- 
cordance with which we can easily answer such 
questions, so that you may see what Christ is speak- 
ing about, and who are the people to whom he is 
preaching, namely, concerning spiritual matters 
and life, and for his Christians, how they are to 
live before God and in the world, and conduct 
themselves so that their heart may cleave to God, 
and have no concern about worldly government, 
authority, power, punishment, anger, revenge, etc. 


If now one asks whether a Christian is to go to 
hiw, or defend himself, etc., then answer simply: 
No. For a Christian is such a person who has 
nothing to do with such worldly affairs and law, 
and belongs to such a kingdom or government in 
which the only current rule is, as we pray: Forgive 
us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Here there 
should be nothing but mutual love and service, 
even towards those who do not love us, but are 
hostile to us, and do us harm and injury, etc. 
Therefore he says to such that they shall not resist 
evil, and even not seek revenge, but that they 
should turn the other cheek to him who strikes 
them, etc. 

x\nd then there is another question, whether a 
Christian may be a man in a secular position and 
conduct the office and work of a ruler or judge, in 
such a way that the two persons or two kinds of 
office are joined in one man, and he thus be a 
Christian and a prince, judge, lord, servant, maid, 
which are merely worldly persons, for they belong 
to the sphere of the world. To this we answer: 
Yes. For God has Himself ordained and appointed / 
this worldly sphere and these distinctions, and has 
besides confirmed and praised them by his word. 
For otherwise this life could not endure, and we 
are included in them, yes, born in them, before we 
became Christians. Therefore we must remain in 
them, too, as long as we are here upon earth; but 

194 Luther's commentary on the 

only so far as our outward, worldly life and condi- 
tion are concerned. 

Therefore it is not indeed possible to ignore these 
I secular relations, for a Christian must be some kind 
lof a worldly person, because he, at least as to body 
and property, is under the emperor; but as to his 
lowii person, according to his spiritual life, he is 
only under Christ, and not under the authority of 
the emperor or of any man. And yet externally he 
is subject to and under obligations to him, in so far 
as he is in a civil position or office, has house and 
home, wife and child; for all such things are of the 
emperor. Therefore he must necessarily do what 
he commands him, and what is required by such 
an external life, and does wrong, if he should have 
house, wife, child, servants, and would not nourish 
or protect them, if necessary; and it would not 
suffice for him to say that he was a Christian, and 
had to forsake everything or let it be taken from 
him, etc. ; but he must be told: You are now under 
the control of the emperor, where you do not count 
as a Christian, but as a father, lord, prince, etc. 
A Christian you are, as to your own person, but 
as to your servant 5^ou are another person, and are 
bound to protect him. 

See, we are now speaking of a Christian in rela- 
tion^ not of him as a Christian, but as bound in 
this life to another person, whom he has under or 
over him, or also alongside of him, as lord, lady, 


wife, child, neighbor, etc., when one is bound to , 
defend, shield and protect another, if he can. ( 
Therefore it would not be right to teach here to 1 
turn the other cheek and to throw away the cloak t* 
after the coat. For that would be just playing the i' 
fool, as was said of a crankv saint, who allowed the f 
lice to nibble at him, and would not kill any of 1, 
them on account of this text, asserting that one 
must suffer and not resist evil. 

Are you a prince, judge, lord, lady, etc., and do 
you have people under you, and want to know what 
is becoming in you ? Then you do not need to 
inquire of Christ, but consult the law of the em- 
peror or of your state, which will soon tell you how 
you are to conduct yourself towards your inferiors 
and protect them. What kind of a foolish mother 
would she be, who would not defend her child 
against a wolf or a dog and deliver it, and then 
say: A Christian must not defend himself? Ought 
we not to teach her by a good flogging, and say: 
Are you a mother? then do a mother's duty, that is 
committed to you, and which Christ has not abro- 
gated, but much rather confirmed. 

Thus we read of many holy martyrs, who under 
infidel emperors and lords have gone forth to war, 
when summoned, and in all good conscience have 
struck right and left and killed, just as others, so 
that in this respect there was no difference between 
Christians and heathen; and yet they did nothing 

196 Luther's commentary on the 

contrar}' to this text. For they did it not as Chris- 
tians, for their own person, but as obedient mem- 
bers and subjects, under obligation to secular 
person and authority. But if you are free and not 
obligated to such secular authority, then you have 
here a different rule, as a different person. 

Therefore only learn the difference between the 
two persons that a Christian must carry at the 
same time upon earth, because he lives among 
other people and must use the goods of the world 
and of the emperor, just as well as the heathen. 
For he has the same blood and flesh that he must 
maintain, not through the spiritual authority but 
through the land and soil that belongs to the 
emperor, etc., until he is bodily removed altogether 
out of this life into another. If now this is prop- 
erly distinguished, just how far the personality of 
the Christian and that of the man of the world ex- 
tends, you can nicely explain all these sayings and 
apply them properly where they belong, so that 
one may not mix and confound them together as 
the pope has done with his teaching and ruling. 

This is now what we have to say of the person 
who is obligated toward other persons under secu- 
lar rule, which is called that of father, mother, 
lord and lady, etc. But how is it, if only your own 
person is concerned, so that injury or injustice is 
done to yourself, whether it is proper then to op- 
pose this with violence and defend one's self? 


Answer: No. For here even the principles of the 
world and of the emperor themselves teach: Strik- 
ing back provokes quarrels, and he who strikes 
back invokes injury. For by so doing he becomes 
obnoxious to judicial authority and loses his right; 
just as in other cases, as when some one robs or 
steals from you, you have no right to steal or rob 
from him and forcibly to take anything from him. 
But we are generally disposed to avenge ourselves 
quickly, before one has time to look about himself. 
But this ought not so to be. 

But if you are not willing or able to endure it, 
then you may go before the judge with him and 
there maintain 5^our cause. For he allows it to 
happen that you in the ordinary way demand and 
take your rights, but so that you are careful not to 
have a revengeful heart. So a judge may properly 
punish and put to death, and yet he is forbidden 
thereby to have hatred or a spirit of vengeance in 
his heart; as it often happens, that one abuses his 
office to gratify his own caprice. If now, however, 
this does not occur, and you simply seek to protect 
and maintain yourself properly against violence 
and abuse, not to avenge yourself or injure your 
neighbor, then you do no wrong; for when the 
heart is pure then all is right and well done. But 
there is danger here, for the reason that the world, 
along with flesh and blood, is evil, and it always 
seeks its own, and nevertheless wears a plausible 
appearance and conceals the scoundrel. 

19B Luther's commentary on the 

So it is not forbidden to go to law and lodge 
complaint against injustice, violence, etc., if only 
the heart be not faulty, but eo^ually patient as be- 
fore, and one is doing it only to maintain what is 
right and not give place to what is wrong, and 
from sincere love for righteoasness; as I gave an il- 
lustration above from the case of Joseph, the holy, 
who complained of his brothers to their father, 
when they had done something wrong and an evil 
report had gone abroad about them; and he is 
praised for this, for he did it not out of an evil 
heart, that he wanted to betray them, or wanted to 
create strife, as they regarded it, and in consequence 
became hostile to him; but he did it out of a 
friendly, brotherly heart, for their good. For he 
did not like to see that they should be the objects 
of an evil report, so that it could not be said that 
he sought revenge or meant harm, but did it for 
their good, and suffered in consequence of their 
blaming him with mischief. 

This we read, too, in the Gospel, Matt, xviii., in 
the parable of the servant to whom his lord forgave 
all his debt, and he was not willing to forgive his 
fellow-servant a small debt, that the other servants 
were very sorry, and told this to their master, not 
because they were revengeful or glad of his misfor- 
tune, but kept fist, heart and mouth quiet, so that 
they did not swear, or carry slanderous reports to 
others, but brought the matter before their master, 


whose business it was to punish, and they sought 
what was right, but with a truly Christian heart, 
as those who were under obligation to their master 
to be true to him; for so it should necessarily be, 
whether in a house or in a city: if a pious, faithful 
servant or subject sees another do wrong or injury 
to his master, that he report it to him and shield 
him from harm; in like manner, a pious citizen, if 
he see violence and harm done to his neighbor, that 
he help and defend him. These are all secular 
transactions which Christ has not forbidden, but 
rather sanctioned. 

For it must surely not be that we are to give 
room and occasion for every one's caprice, and sub- 
mit to it in silence and do nothing about it, if we 
can in the usual way succeed in defending our- 
selves; although, otherwise, we must necessarily 
suffer, if injustice and violence are done to us. 
For we must not sanction what is wrong, but give 
witness to the truth, and may properly appeal to 
the law, against violence and outrage; as Christ 
himself before the high-priest Annas made his ap- 
peal to justice, and yet, notwithstanding, submitted 
to be smitten, and offered not only the other cheek, 
but his whole body. 

Behold, you ha. e thus an excellent, clear state- 
ment as to how you are to proceed in both these 
cases, so that we have no need of the prolix and dan- 
gerous glosses that used to be sought after; but, so 

200 Luther's commentary on the 

that we keep things apart, and do not mix them, in 
order that each may move in its own sphere and yet 
both be effective, namely, in such a way that a 
Christian niay, without sin, carry on all kinds of 
worldly business, but not as a Christian, but as a 
worldly person, and yet his heart remain pure in his 
Christianity, as Christ demands; which the world 
cannot do, but it abuses all worldly ordinances and 
law, yes, all creatures, contrary to the command of 

Thus, if a Christian goes to war, or sits and acts 
as a judge, and punishes or sues his neiglibor, this 
he does not as a Christian, but as a warrior, judge, 
jurist, etc.; but retains nevertheless a Christian 
heart, desiring to harm no one, and sorry that an 
evil must befall his neighbor; and he lives thus at 
the same time as a Christian towards everybody, 
who suffers all sorts of things, for his own person 
in the world, and yet along with this also, as a 
worldly person, holds fast, uses and does everything 
that the law of the land, or city, or family de- 
mands. In short, a Christian, as a Christian, lives 
for none of those things that one sees in him, in 
this outward life. For all this belongs to the gov- 
ernment of the emperor; which Christ does not 
mean to overthrow, nor to teach that we are to run 
away from it, and to leave the world or one's office 
or place in society; but we are to make use of this 
rule and established order, and remain under our 


obligation to it, aiid yet inwardly live under 
another rule that has nothing whatever to do with 
that one, also does not hinder it, but readily en- 
dures its presence alongside. 

Thus we now approach the text with this dis- 
tinction [in view] and make all these various ap- 
plications of it, namely, that a Christian is not to 
resist any evil; again, that a worldly person is to 
oppose all evil, so far as his official position calls 
for it. How the head of a family is not to allow 
his servants to oppose him or to abuse each other, 
etc., so also a Christian is not to have a dispute 
with any one, but to give up both coat and cloak 
when they are taken from him. But a worldly 
person is to protect and defend himself by appeal- 
ing to law, if he can, against violence and outrage. 
In short, in the kingdom of Christ the law de- 
mands the enduring of everything, forgiving and 
repaying good with evil. Again, under the rule 
of the Emperor we should endure no wrong, but 
guard against evil and punish it, and help to de- 
fend and maintain the right, as each one's office 
or position demands. 

But if you say: Yes, still Christ says here in plain 
words: Resist not evil, that sounds so distinct, as 
if it were absolutely forbidden? Answer: Yes, but 
see to whom he says this. For he does not say 
there is to be no resisting of evil, for that would be 
a downright overturning of all rule and authority; 


but thus he speaks: You, you shall uot do it. What 
are these Yoii? They are the disciples of Christ 
whom he is teachiug how they are to live as to 
theuiselves, aside from the worldly goverumeut. 
For to be Christiaus is a difFereut thing (as has 
been sufficiently stated), from holding and execu- 
ting a worldly office or calling. Therefore he 
means to say: Let him who is clothed with worldly 
authority resist evil, execute justice, punish, etc., 
as the jurists and the laws teach; to you, however, 
as my disciples, whom I teach, not how you are to 
regulate yourselves outwardly, but how you are to 
live before God, I say: You shall not resist evil, 
but suffi^r all sorts of things, and have a pure, 
friendly heart towards those who do to you wrong 
or violence; and if some one takes your coat, that 
you do not seek revenge, but rather let him take 
your cloak also, if you cannot prevent it, etc. 

He states two wa\-s by which one suffers wrong, 
or has his own taken from him. In the first place, 
through mere violence and outrage, as when one is 
smitten on the mouth, or openly robbed, without any 
warrant of law; that means, to strike upon the one 
cheek. Secondly, if it is not open violence, but is 
d^ne under the semblance and with help of the law; 
as when one seeks an occasion against you before the 
law, as if he had a claim upon you, so that he may 
compel you to give up your own. That Christ calls 
taking your coat by law, when one denies j^our 


right to your own, and you must both innocently 
suffer injustice and besides be held guilty as if 
you were in the wrong, etc. ; not that you suffer 
injury or violence by the law, which is appointed 
to defend the pious: but, that scamps and scoun- 
drels are sitting as judges and in office, whose 
business it is to execute justice, and yet, if one 
cannot get at you with violence, they turn and 
twist the law, and make an ill use of it according 
to their caprice ; just as the world artfully and 
daily does, so that now nothing is so common as to 
make right wrong, and right out of wrong, by all 
sorts of sudden expedients and queer tricks. 

Most frequently, however, this happens to pious 
Christians, to whom the world is at any rate hostile, 
and takes pleasure in tormenting. Therefore 
Christ tells them of it beforehand, that they must 
expect this in the world, and must submit to suf- 
fering, especially if it happens because they are 
Christians, that is, on account of the gospel and the 
spiritual government, so that on its account they 
expect abuse, and let everything take its course. 
For we must at all events suffer, sinij 
persons we cannot do anything or defeij 
against the authorities if they set 
against us. Otherwise, if tHis 1.. -•>,': the 
you can defend and prote> . 

the law, so that justice is yottrsi 

then you do right, and 0^1:; 


V. 42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would 
borrow of thee turn not thou away. 

He indicates three thino;s that Christians are to 
endure in temporal things: that they allow things 
to be taken from them, that they suffer willingly 
and freely give. Here they (the scribes) taught no 
further than the law of the world and of the Em- 
peror reaches, which does not bid you to give your 
own to another, nor to allow it to be taken from 
you; but it teaches you how to manage and deal 
with your property, so that you get an equivalent 
for it by buying, selling, exchanging, etc. Now 
Christ has nothing to say about this, but lets things 
take their course, as reason teaches, how one is to 
divide property, to trade, etc. But he shows what 
a Christian ought to have, over and above all this, 
namely, these three things, that he allows things 
to be taken from him, either by violence or with 
the semblance of right; also, that he cheerfully 
gives, and also cheerfully lends. 

Therefore, we must here again distinguish be- 
tween ' ' -^nd the teaching of Christ. Ac- 
corr** , .'/u law you may properly use your 
\A^ with them, buy and sell; as we 
!■ iarchs, that they dealt with 
\u-- " otl'.er people, just as it 
. Jive among the people, 
uouiiMi For this all be- 
lon<^- ■ J belly can claim its 


own, and it is just as necessary as eating and drink- 

But over and above this, Christ teaches you, that 
in all these things you should nevertheless be ready 
gladly to let things be taken from you, to do good, 
or to give, and also to suffer, if you can, and to en- 
dure violence, not alone with your property, but 
also with your life, as has been explained under 
the previous text; and all this especially for the 
sake of the Lord Christ, if one tries to get at you 
because of the gospel, so that in that case you are 
ready to give up not only your coat but your cloak 
also, not only property and honor, but also your 
very life. For in such a case there can be no doubt, 
and a different case, indeed, can not easily occur. 
For in other cases, which belong to worldly affairs 
and government, you have judges and law, if injus- 
tice or violence be done to you, that you can ap- 
peal to and find help. But if you cannot secure 
justice or protection, then you must suffer; just as 
those even must suffer who are not Christians. 

But here we must see to it, that we do not give 
knaves and rogues a chance to take advantage of 
the doctrine and assert: The Christians must suffer 
in every way, therefore we may confidently en- 
croach upon their property, take an:^ steal it; and 
a Christian must submit to sit t|u|re wit all that 
he has before every desperate STOundi that 

everything is open before Iiini. n id oi . .. give 

2o6 luthkr's commentary on the 

or lend to him as much as he wants, and not de- 
mand it again, etc.; as the wretched, renegade 
Emperor Julian made merry over this text, and 
took from the Christians whatever he wanted, say- 
ing that he wanted to pay them in their own coin. 
No, my dear fellow, that's not the way. It is in- 
deed true, that Christians are to be ready to endure 
all manner of suffering; but if you come before the 
judge, or fall into the hands of the hangman, then 
look out for what he will make you suffer. A 
Christian must expect to suffer what is done to him 
by you and every one else; but it is not his duty to 
allow free play for your caprice, if he can prevent 
it by an appeal to the law and by the help of the 
authorities. And although the authorities may 
not be willing to protect him, or even may them- 
selves act with violence, he is not on that account 
to ignore the treatment as if he sanctioned it. . 
So also here, although he ought to lend and give 
to every one that asks him; yet if he knows that 
he is a scoundrel, it is not his duty to give to him. 
For Christ does not require me to give my own to 
every knave, and withhold it from my own and 
others, who need it, whom I am besides bound to 
help, and then myself be in want and a burden to 
others. For he does not say that we are to give 
and to lend to everybody, but to him who asks us, 
as the one who is in need, etc., not to the one who 
capriciously yants to force something from us, as 


those who already have enough, or who want to 
feed themselves without work by imposing on other 
people. Therefore we ought to see to it and know 
what sort of people we may have in any place, who 
may be poor and without property, or who are not 
[in this condition], and not encourage every scamp 
or tramp who has no need and could very well pro- 
vide for himself For there is plenty of such trash 
now roaming about the country, who want to avail 
themselves of this teaching, and under its sanction 
revel upon the property of others, and squander 
everything, and so wander from one place to an- 
other. We ought to turn such fellows over to the 
constable, and let them be taught something else, 
that they must not deceive pious people with their 

St. Paul teaches this in 2 Cor. viii. 13, where he 
himself is asking for a contribution from the Cor- 
inthians for the poor Christians in the famine, so 
that it should not be given with the intention that 
the others should have ease and they should have 
trouble, that is, that they should have trouble and 
labor, and themselves suffer want, so that the others 
should be good humor by their gifts; and in 2 
Thess. iii. 6, lie commands the Christians that they 
shall withdraw from such as walk unworthily; but 
each one is to work quietly, eat his own bread and 
not be a burden to others; and concludes that he 
who will not work shall also not eat. Therefore, he 

2o8 Luther's commentary on the 

who can work shall know that this is God's com- 
mand, that he do something to provide for him- 
self and not be burdensome to others. For there 
are still enough of those who need it, so that 
we besides have enough to lend and give, as the 
Scriptures say, Deut. xv. ii: The poor shall never 
cease out of the land. For we are, therefore, not 
to lend and give in such a way, that we fling our 
gifts away into the wind, and do not see to whom 
we give them; but we are first to open our eyes, 
who he is, whether he is pete7is^ (as Christ says,) 
that is, whether he is in need, and is properly ask- 
ing, or whether it is a deceiver or a scamp. 

In this case you must act as a worldly person, so 
that you may be prudent as you are living among 
the people, and may know the poor, and see what 
kind of people you are dealing with, and to whom 
you should or should not give. If you then see 
that it is an honest seeker, open your hand and 
lend to him, if he can repay you again. But if he 
cannot, then bestow it upon him and square the ac- 
count; as there are pious people who would gladly 
work and provide for themselves, with wife and 
children, and yet they cannot succeed, but now and 
then get into debt and trouble; for such every town 
should have its commom treasury and alms, and 
church officers who should find out who these 
people are, and how they live, etc., so that one 
does not encourage lazy tramps or burden the 


V. 43-48. Ve have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt 
love thy neighbor and hate thine enetny. ,Biit I say unto you, 
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them 
that hate you, and pray for them that despite/ully use you, and 
persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which 
is in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on 
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For 
if ye love them ivhich love you, ivhat reward have ye? do not 
even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren 
only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans 
so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in 
heaven is perfect. 

This saying, which Christ here quotes, does not 
stand in any one place in the Old Testament, but 
here and there in Deuteronomy, concerning their 
enemies, the heathen around them, as Moab, 
Amnion, Amalek; and, although it is not expressly 
said that they shall hate their enemies, yet it fol- 
lows from these statements, as he says in jDeut . 
xxiii. 6, (that they are never to show any favor to 
the Ammonites and Moabites, and their other 
enemies, also never to congratulate them or wish 
them success^ This was indeed making a liberal 
grant to the Jews and opening a wide door for 
them, and they made good use of it too. But just 
as in other matters, so they failed also rightly to 
understand this, but carried it too far and abused it 
to gratify their own caprice. Therefore Christ ex- ' 
plains it differently, and shows them the right ! 
meaning of the law , which they ignored, and gave' 
prominence to such sayings as seemed to sound in 


their favor, so that they might therewith find sup- 
port for their crookedness. 

Here mark again the distinction: in the first 
place, that he is speaking only of what Christians, 
as Christians', are to do, espe ciall>iior.JLll£. .sake, of - 
the gospel and of their Christia nity. Thus, if 
some one hates me, envies, slanders or persecutes 
me for the sake of Christ and of the kingdom of 
heaven, I am not to hate, persecute, slander and 
curse him in return, but to love, benefit, bless and 
.pray for him. For a Christian is a man who know s 
no hatred or animositv at all ao;ainst any one, has 
no anger or revenge in his heart, but s impl y love , 
mildness and beneficenc e; just like our Lord Christ 
and our heavenly Father himself is, whom he here 
too takes as his pattern. 

Now the question arises: What are we to say to 
this, that in the Scriptures we often read that holy 
people cursed their enemies, and even Christ and 
his apostles did the same? Is that loving and bless- 
ing one's enemies? Or, how can I love the pope, 
whom I daily revile and curse, and with good 
reason, too? The simple answer is: I have often 
said, the office of the ministry is not our office, but 
God's. But what is God's, that we do not do, but 
he himself, through his word and office as his own 
gift and business (or creature) [Geschaft, in some 
copies, Geschopflfe.] Now it is written, John xvi. 
8, that it is the office and work of the Holy Spirit 


to reprove the world; but if he is to reprove it, he 
must not act the hypocrite or flatterer and say what 
it likes to hear; but he must rebuke and roughly 
assail it; as Christ denounces woe upon his Phari- 
sees and Paul says to Elymas, Acts xiii. lo: "O, 
full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of 
the devil," etc. ; and Stephen, Acts vii. 51-53, reads 
the high-priests a hard, sharp lesson; and especially 
St. Paul, Gal. i. 8, heaps it all in one denunciation 
and calls all those anathema, that is interdicted 
and accursed, and consigned to the bottom of hell, 
who do not teach the pure doctrine of faith. 

See, th us does the word of God call the whole 
world to account, roughly seizes „bath_Jj[mis_^aiid 
princes, and everybody else ; it denounces_ anji 
curses their whole way of living, which it is no t, 
becoming fo r y ou or m e to do, unless it is our 
official dut y. David was right in proceeding thus 
in the second psalm, and telling all kings and 
lords to consider and humble themselves and sub- 
mit to the doctrine concerning Christ, to be re- 
buked and taught better, or they should be sum- 
marily damned and given over to the devil. I 
would not dare to do that; but God's word moves 
in this way, thunders and lightens, and storms 
against great mighty mountains, and strikes in, so 
that it smokes; it dashes to pieces everything that 
is great, proud, disobedient, as is said in Ps. xxix. 
3; and again, it sprinkles, and moistens, plants 


and strengthens what is weak and sickly, as poor 
parched plants. 

If now any one wants to rush in, snapping and 
snarling wilh cursing and scolding, not as a 
teacher and preacher, who has been entrusted 
with the administration of God's word, he does 
wrong. But he who has been entrusted with this 
office must execute it; and he also does wrong if he 
neglects it, or through fear does not open his 
mouth, and rebuke what is to be rebuked without 
regard to persons; as we must now say to our 
bishops that they are tyrants and scoundrels, who 
act openly with all injustice and caprice against 
God and the right. For this I do not of myself, 
but in view of my office; otherwise, as to my own 
person, I must not wish any evil to any person upon 
earth, but on the other hand wish well and speak 
and act kindly to everybody. For I am not in this 
way hostile to the pope, bishops and all the enemies 
that persecute us and so greatly torment us. I do 
not at all begrudge them any of the temporal goods, 
power and honor that God gives them, indeed 
would gladly help them to keep them, yes, would 
even besides be much more glad if they were as 
rich also in spiritual goods as we are, and had no 
want; and it would be our heart's joy if we could 
by the sacrifice of our very life bring them to this, 
and snatch and save them from their blindness and 
from the power of the devil. 


But as they positively will not have this, nor can 
endure or accept anything good that we offer them, 
we must also let them go their way, and say : If it has 
to be that one or the other must perish, God's word 
and the kingdom of Christ, or the pope and all his 
crowd, then let him rather go to the bottom of hell, 
in the name of his god, the devil, so that only 
God's word may remain. If I must bless and 
praise, or curse and damn one of the two, then I 
will bless God's word and curse them, with all that 
they have. For I must place the word of God 
above everything else, and hazard body and life, 
the favor of the world, goods, honor, and every 
precious thing, so that I may keep that and cling 
to Christ, as my highest treasure in heaven and 
on earth. For one of these two things must take 
place, that either the word of God may abide, and 
they fall in with it; or, if they will not accept of 
mercy and goodness and all happiness, then they 
must not suppress it [the word of God]. 

Thus a Christian can easily accommodate himself 
to the situation, so that he may properly conduct 
himself towards both enemies and friends, and love, 
bless, etc., every one, so far as his neighbor's per- 
son is concerned; but yet, along with this, so far 
as God and his word are concerned, that he do not 
suffer these to be encroached upon; but he must 
place this above and before everything else, and 
make everything bend to it, without regarding any 


oue, friend or foe, inasmuch as this is not our cause, 
nor our neighbors', but God's, and him it is our 
duty to obey, before everything else. Therefore I 
say to my worst enemies: So far as my person is con- 
cerned, I will most gladly help you and do every- 
thing good for you, although you are my enemy 
and are doing me nothing but harm; but so far as 
God's word is concerned, there you are not to ex- 
pect any friendship or love, if you ask me to do 
something against that, even if you were my near- 
est, best friend; but, if you will not endure this, I 
will pray for and bless you in such a fashion that 
God may dash you down to the ground [in some 
copies, " that God may oppose you and bring you 
to shame."] I will gladly serve you; but not to 
the end that you may overturn the word of God; 
}ou never can bring me to give you for such a pur- 
pose as that even a drink of water. In short, men 
we are to love and serve; but God above everything 
else: so that, if we are called upon to hinder or 
thwart these, then there is no more place for love 
or service. For the command is: Thou shalt love 
thine enemy and do him good; but to God's 
enemies I must also be an enemy, so that I do not 
with them run counter to God. 

Thus he has refuted this position too, against the 
foolish notion of the Jews, who gave a false inter- 
pretation to the Scriptures, as if they were allowed 
to be hostile to their enemies; and he so explained 


the law, that they were to have 110 enemy at all 
against whom they should be hostile; although 
Moses had said that they should not have and make 
any friendship with certain strange heathens, 
whom not they but God himself had specially 
designated as his enemies. But that they should 
themselves regard as enemies whomsoever they 
would, and curse, persecute and torment them, that 
was not the intention of Moses. For Solomon also, 
who rightly understood and explained Moses, 
speaks thus: If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if 
he is athirst, give him to drink; which saying St. 
Paul also quotes, Rom. xii. 29. For to hate one's 
enemy is a trait of an ordinary person and belongs 
to an office of divine appointment; but the com- 
mand: Love thy neighbor as thyself, applies to the 
whole community and to each individual particu- 

But see how high he places the standard, that he 
not only rebukes those who do evil to their enemies, 
but also denies the piety of those who fail to do 
them good when they need it. For he says first: 
lyove your enemies. But to love means, to have a 
good heart and cherish the best wishes, with cordial 
sympathy, and be especially amiable towards every 
one, and not mock at his misery or misfortune. 

He means also that we are to show the same feel- 
ing by our words, when he says: Bless them that 
curse you, etc., so that we are not to utter an evil 


word against lliein, even if they most violently 
abuse, slander, revile^and curse us, but to speak to 
them kindly and wish them well. Hence comes 
that beautiful, Christian expression, employed by 
some pious people, when they hear that some oue 
has done them wrong, or played some ugly trick 
upon them — they say: May God forgive them! as 
though moved by compassionate sympathy, and not 
desiring anything else than that no harm may come 
to them from God on account of it. That means a 
good tongue against other evil tongues, so that both 
heart and mouth show nothing but love. 

Then, in the third place, he means that this 
[loving] heart should be shown also by deeds, and 
all kinds of friendly acts, saying: Do^good to them 
that hate you. But this is a very rare virtue, and 
such a doctrine as does not at all suit the world, 
and it is quite impossible for nature to return noth- 
ing but good for all sorts of evil, and not be over- 
come by malice and shameful ingratitude; but to 
overcome evil with good, as St. Paul says. There- 
fore he had before stated that he who would be a dis- 
ciple of Christ and get to heaven must have another 
and better righteousness than that of the Pharisees 
and Jewish saints. 

The fourth topic, however: "Pray for those that 
despitefully use you and persecute you," bears more 
directly upon our doctrine and faith, than upon our 
person and life. For that they persecute us, this 


happens on account of God's word, they claiming 
that they are right and we are wrong. When this 
is the case it is our duty to pray and commend the 
matter to God, because we have no one upon earth 
to whom we can appeal for vindication. And since 
we see that those who persecute us are running 
counter not to us, but to God himself, and are in- 
terfering >vith his kingdom, and are doing the 
greatest harm not to us, but to him himself, and 
have become obnoxious to his wrath and condem- 
nation; we should rather have pity on them, and 
pray for them, that they may be brought out of 
their blindness and fearful doom. For no one can 
do us an}' harm, unless he has first done it to a far 
greater Lord, namely the high Majesty in heaven. 
Yet this also only in so far as it is done aside from 
official responsibility and does not interfere with 
this, so that we, as I have always said, carefully 
distinguish the teaching which relates in general 
to each single person, from the teaching which be- 
longs to those who are in office, whether spiritual 
or temporal, whose work it is to punish and with- 
stand the evil. Therefore, even though they be in 
themselves kind, yet right and punishment, as their 
official work, must run their course; and it would 
not be right for them to neglect this, as through 
compassion, for this would be to help, strengthen 
and encourage the evil; as if I should say to our 
enemies, the pope, bishops, princes, and whoever 


they may be, who persecute and trample upon the 
gospel and the poor people that adhere to it: Dear 
sirs, may the dear God reward you, you are pious 
people and holy fathers, etc. ; or if I were to keep 
silence, and worship them, or kiss their feet. No, 
dear brother, the right thing for me to say is: I am 
a preacher, who must have teeth in his head, must 
bite and salt, and tell them the truth; and, if they 
will not hear, I must excommunicate them, shut 
up heaven against them, consign them to the fire 
of hell, and turn them over to the devil, in God's 
name, etc. 

Whosoever now has this oflBce, to rebuke, to re- 
vile, etc., let him do it; but aside from the oJBice, 
let every one follow this teaching, not to revile or 
curse, but to act in a kind and friendly manner, 
although others may act badly, and thus divert the 
punishing from yourself and turn it over to those 
whose office it is. For the evil doer will be apt to 
find his judge who will not spare him, even if you 
do not avenge yourself or seek to do it. For God 
will not suffer any wrong to go unpunished, but 
will himself take vengeance upon our enemies, and 
will send home to them what their treatment of us 
has merited; as he himself says: Vengeance is 
mine, I will repay; accordingly St. Paul exhorts 
Christians, Rom. xii. 19: "Avenge not yourselves, 
but rather give place unto the wrath of God;" by 
which words he not only teaches, but also comforts, 


as if he would say: Do not assume to take ven- 
geance upon one another, to curse and wish evil to 
each other; for whosoever does you harm or injury, 
he is interfering with an office that is not his, 
assuming to punish or injure you without orders, 
yes, contrary to the command of God. If now you 
do also the same, then you interfere with the office 
of God, and sin just as greatly against him, as he 
has done against you. 

Therefore restrain your fist, and give place to his 
wrath and punishing, and let him attend to it, who 
will not let it be unavenged, and who punishes 
more severely than you would desire. For he has 
not assailed you, but much rather God himself, 
and has already fallen under his displeasure; he 
cannot escape from him, as no one has ever yet 
escaped him. Why then will you be angry, since 
God's wrath, which is immeasurably greater and 
more severe than the wrath and punishing of 
the whole world, has already fastened upon him, 
and has already taken greater vengeance than you 
could do; and besides, he has not done you the tenth 
part of the harm that he has done to God ? Why 
then do you wish to curse heavily and take ven- 
geance, since you see that he is lying under this 
severe condemnation, so that you should rather 
have pity on his misery, and pray for him, that he 
may escape from it and reform, etc. 

And to confirm and impress this teaching he pre- 


sents two examples: first, when he says: That ye 
may be the children of yonr Father which is in 
heaven; for he lets his snn rise on the evil and the 
good, and sends rain upon the just and upon the 
unjust; as though he should say: If you want to be 
called true children of your Father in heaven, then 
let his example move you so that you also live and 
act as he does. He causes his sun to rise daily, 
and sends rain both upon the pious and the evil. 
Here he has in a few words included all the earthly 
benefits that God bestows upon the world, when he 
mentions these two things, the sun and rain. For 
if these, or even one of them, were wanting, the 
whole world would long since have become waste, 
and have perished. If the sun did not daily rise, 
one could never work, but all animals, along with 
all trees, vegetables and grass would perish from 
frost. Hence the sun alone conveys the blessing 
of which the world is full, and which it cannot pay 
for, so that all, both animals and man, can seek 
their nourishment, and it bestows also heat and 
warmth, so that everything remains alive, grows, 
increases, and does not perish. In short, it is not 
possible to enumerate what benefits God bestows 
every hour and moment through the sun. Yes, 
where is the man that acknowledges this, or is 
thankful for it ? 

But, although God gives, produces and preserves 
everything through the sun, yet we must have the 


rain also. For if the sun were constantly shining, 
everything at last would dry up and pine away for 
heat, and no fodder or grain could grow for man or 
beast. Therefore he has tempered it with the rain, 
so that it can revive, and retain its moisture and 
strength. There are now embraced in these two 
the four things that belong to life, which the 
philosophers call the pn'jnas g'Ziah'/a^es^ cold, \v*arm, 
dry and moist, so that there must not be one with- 
out the other. For if there were nothing but cold, 
or again nothing but heat, there could be no life. 
Now the sun brings two of these, heat and dryness; 
the rain also brings two, so that it is cold and 
moist. Thus God gives to the whole world daily 
most abundantly and gratuitously, to his enemies 
as well as to his friends, life, with all that is needed 
for its use and advantage. Yes, he causes it to rain 
the most in a waste, wild forest and ocean, where 
it is of no use at all, and gives only scant showers 
where pious people live. Yes, he gives the best 
kingdoms, countries, people, money and goods to 
the worst scoundrels; to the pious, however, hardly 
bread enough to eat. 

Since now God everywhere in the wide world 
displays to us these illustrations, just as if he 
wished thereby to exhort us and to say to us: If 
you do not know what kind of a person 1 am, and_ 
how I am doing good to you, ask the sun and moon 
and rain about it, and everything that is cold, wet, 


warm or dry; then you will see not only innumer- 
able benefits that I am displaying to my Christians, 
but also much more to the wicked, who show me 
no gratitude, but reward me by persecuting most 
shamefully my Son, and pious Christians; so, that 
you must be ashamed to look at the sun, that is 
daily proclaiming this to you, ashamed even to 
look at a little flower or the leaf of a tree. For it 
stands written upon all leaves and grass, and there 
is no little bird, yes, no trifling fruit, no berry, no 
little grain, so minute that does not show this to 
you and say: For whom do I yield my fruit or 
berry? For the vilest miscreants and scoundrels 
upon earth. What charge do you then bring 
against yourself, for having no love at all towards 
God, or benev^olence toward your neighbor, and for 
not showing at least some kindness to others, since 
he is doing you so much good, without ceasing, by 
means of all his creatures? 

Now there is surely no man upon earth who 
suffers the hundredth part as much from bad fellows 
as He must daily suffer, not alone by this, that men 
abuse his goods and all his creatures for purposes 
of sin and shame; but much more, that the very 
ones who have the most of these goods, as kings, 
lords and princes, are as hostile to him and his 
word as to the devil himself, so that they would 
gladly destroy it at once, if they could; they rage 
and storm against it with all manner of abuse, 


cursing, reviling, and besides with actnal violence, 
so that there is no one npon earth to whom more 
hatred and envy, along with all sorts of knavery 
and trickery, are shown than to his Christians. 
Well, this is what he has to endnre daily from the 
whole world; yet he is so good, and daily causes 
the sun to shine, and lets those enjoy his blessings 
abundantly who rather deserve not to have a blade 
of grass or a moment of sunshine; but they merit 
rather that he should rain upon them incessantly 
notljing but hellish fire, and hurl upon them thun- 
derbolts, hail, spears and bullets. But he must be 
called a very good Father who bestows upon such 
desperate scoundrels so much property, land, peo- 
ple, fruits and good weather, and allows them to 
lord it in every way over his domain, so that sun 
and moon and all creatures must serve them, and 
allow themselves to be abused in the interest of all 
their caprice and wickedness against God. If now 
we wish to be children of this Father, we ought 
to let these striking examples move us to live 

The other illustration is taken from the evil 
fellows and • murderers among themselves. They 
also understand the art of clinging together and 
treating each other well; yes, they make common 
cause with one another, and yet their whole aim is 
to injure other people, to rob and murder, and this 
alone for the sake of temporal, uncertain advantage. 


Therefore you ought surely to be ashamed (he 
meaus to say), who are called Christiaus and God's 
children, and want to get to heaven, and have such 
a good, faithful Father, who promises and gives 
you everything good; and yet you are no better 
than robbers and murderers, and are like all bad 
fellows upon earth. For there never have been 
any so bad as not to observe kindness and friend- 
ship towards one another; how could they other- 
wise get along? For even the devils in hell cannot 
antagonize each other, or their kingdom would 
soon be destroyed; as Christ himself says. 

See, now, how good are you, if you are friendly 
and gracious only towards your friends ?- You are 
just about as good as thieves and rogues, whores 
and scoundrels, yes, as the devil himself. Yet you 
act loftily, are secure, and think you are all right, 
and can take on splendid and boastful airs as if you 
were an angel; as our factious spirits now boast of 
the great love that they have for each other, so 
that one must see from this that the Holy Ghost is 
with them. But what is it that they do ? They 
love their own riotous rabble; along with that the}' 
are full of deadly and murderous hatred against us, 
who have never done them any harm; so that we 
can see very well what sort of a spirit they have, 
and yet they can very well boast that they have as 
much love as scamps, scoundrels and murderers, as 
much indeed as the devils towards each other. 


After this fashion no man upon earth would be 
wicked. For there is no one so desperately bad 
that he does not need to have somebody for a 
friend; how else could he live among people, if he 
were snarling and snapping at everybody ? If now 
you wanted to conclude here: He loves his friends, 
therefore he is good and holy; then you must make 
at last the devil, and all his, good and pious. 

Therefore Christ here means to conclude against 
the Pharisaic saints, that what they teach about 
love, etc., is all knavery; and he teaches them to 
turn the page and look at the Scriptures aright, if 
they want to be the people of God, so that they 
might see and show love towards their enemiesT 
Thereby they could prove that they had a true 
love, and were God's children, as he shows his love 
to enemies and the ungrateful. For Moses himself 
also plainly said this, as in Exod. xxiii. 4, 5: "If 
thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, 
thou shalt surely bring it back to him again;" also, 
" If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying 
under his burden, thou shalt surely help him up 
again," etc. Here they should have found that they 
were under obligation to love their enemies, if they 
had rightly looked at the text, and had not mere!)- 
glanced at it, as our blind teachers skim over the 
surface of the Scriptures. For since he here com- 
mands them to restore and help up an ass or an ox 
that belongs to an enemy : he means that they 


should so much the more do it wheu the euemy 
himself is in danger of person, property, wife, 
child, etc.; and it amounts to this: Thou shall not 
desire thy neighbor's injury, but prevent it, and, 
if thou canst, help him and promote his advantage. 
Thereby you can at last move him, and by kind- 
ness overcome and soften him, so that he cannot 
but love you, because he sees and experiences noth- 
ing evil, but only love and pure goodness in your 
treatment of him. 

Thus Christ now ends this chapter with this 
teaching and these illustrations, and says: There- 
fore be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is per- 
fect. Here our sophists have indulged in many 
dreams about perfection, and have applied every- 
thing to their orders and classes, as if pastors and 
monks alone were in the state of perfection, and 
one higher than the other: the bishops higher than 
the others, and the pope the highest of all. In 
this way this word is snatched away entirely from 
the ordinary class of Christians, as if they could 
not be called or be perfect. But you hear that 
Christ is not here talking to bishops, monks and 
nuns; but in general to all Christians who are his 
disciples and who wish to be called the children of 
God, not like the publicans and base fellows, such 
as the Pharisees and our ecclesiastics are. 

But how are they to be perfect? Answer, briefly, 
for elsewhere I have treated of it more fully: We 


are not to be or become perfect, so as not to have 
any sin, as they dream about perfection; but to be 
perfect means, here and everywhere also in Scrip- 
ture, that in the first place the doctrine [that we 
hold] be entirely correct and, perfect, and then that 
the life also be directed and move accordingly; 
as here this doctrine is that we are to love not only 
those who do good to us, but also our enemies. 
He now who teaches this, and lives according to 
this teaching, he teaches and lives perfectly. 

But the teaching and life of the Jews were both 
imperfect and wrong, for they taught to love only 
their friends, and they also lived accordingly. For 
that is a partial and divided, and only half a love. 
But he demands a whole, round, undivided love, 
so that one loves and benefits his enemy, as well as 
his friend. Thus I am called a real perfect man, 
one who has and holds the doctrine in its entirety. 
If, howpver, the life does not fully accord with 
this, as indeed it cannot, since flesh and blood con- 
stantly hinder, that does not detract from the per- 
fection: only so that we strive after it, and daily 
move forward in it, in such a way that the spirit is 
master over the flesh, and holds it in check, keeps 
it under and restrains it, so that it does not have 
an opportunity to act contrary to this teaching; in 
such a way, that I let love move in the true middle 
way, uniformly toward everybody, so that it ex- 
cludes no one. Then I have the true Christian per- 


fection, that holds its place in no special offices or 
classes; but it is and is to be common to all Chris- 
tians, and forms and fashions itself according to 
the example of the Heavenly Father, who docs not 
part and parcel out his love and kind deeds, but 
lets all men upon earth enjoy them alike, through 
sun and rain, none excluded, good or bad. 


V. 1-4. Take heed that you do not you)- aluis before men, to be 
seen of them: otherwise ye have no reivard of your Father 
which is in heaven. Therefore, ivheti thou doest thine alms, do 
not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the syna- 
gogues and in the streets, that they may have ^lory of men. 
Verily J say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou 
doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand 
doeth ; that thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father which 
seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 

Hitherto the Lord Christ was rebuking the false 
teachings and interpretations of Scripture, by 
which the people had been led only to avoid sin- 
ning with the fist, the heart meanwhile remaining 
internally entirely impure; and he showed and 
clearly exhibited the true meaning of the Scrip- 
tures and of the law. Now he assails their way of 
living, after denouncing their teaching, and re- 
bukes their good works, and shows that they have 
nothing good, neither in doctrine nor works, al- 
though they were daily teaching and doing good 


works, as holy people, so that they were regarded 
as tihe best kernel of the whole Jewish people, and 
as the holiest on earth, and the whole world had to 
look to them as its mirror and pattern, according 
to which they should live: as we have hitherto 
known how to look for the true doctrine and life 
nowhere else than among our spiritual pastors and 
monks; and yet these are now rebuked by the Gos- 
pel, so that every one sees that they have neither 
taught nor lived aright, but have misled and de- 
ceived themselves and the people. 

Now it is truly a mortifying preaching that comes 
into the world in such a way as to let these holy 
people have no claim to anything right or good; 
whereby it will merit to be opposed and not toler- 
ated in the world. But the Holy Ghost does not 
shrink on this account, but goes on, as it is his of- 
fice, wherever he comes, to rebuke both ; as indeed 
both need to be rebuked. For this is true, where 
the teaching is not right, there it is impossible that 
the life, which must be directed and controlled by 
it, should be right and good; but what one does in 
accordance with it, those are bye-paths and devia- 
tions, and so much the worse because at the same 
time there remains the semblance and the notion 
that it is the true, divine teaching which points and 
leads towards heaven, and the works have the name 
of being good, and yet they look no further than to 
the fist: as they supposed it was enough, and well 


done, if they only did the works, gave many ahns, 
fasted and prayed, no matter how their heart stood 
towards God; and besides they were defiled by the 
shameful trait that- they were doing it all only to 
be seen by the people and get honor and glory by 
it from the people; for that reason Christ here re- 
bukes and utterly rejects it. 

And first of all he rebukes their alms, which is 
still the best among all external works. For it 
means nothing else than to help the poor and 
needy; and it embraces not only giving a piece of 
bread to a beggar before the door, but all sorts of 
kind deeds and all s^ood w'orks done to a neig^hbor. 
For the little word alms is taken from the Greek 
word ElerjiioavvT]^ which means mercy; as we also gen- 
erally call them works of mercy. Whence also the 
Scriptures praise these works above all others, even 
those done towards God, as sacrificing, praying, etc. ; 
as Christ himself says through the prophet Hosea: 
I have delight in mercy and not in sacrifice. So 
also in Is. Iviii, he finds fault with their grieving 
him by fasting and scourging their bodies, and de- 
mands these works, that they are to do good to the 
poor, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, etc. 
How does it then happen, that he here rebukes the 
Pharisees on account of such a good work ? An- 
swer: He does not rebuke the work, but their pur- 
pose and aim in doing it. For the deed would be in 
itself good, but it is spoiled by their smearing their 


filtli over it., because they seek only their own glory 
and honor before the people by it, and do it not for 
the sake of God or their neighbor. Therefore he 
pronounces a short, sharp judgment, that all such 
alms, however great, many and costly they may be, 
are- in vain and of no account. 

But who believes that this vice and fault is so 
common in the world, and especially in the case of 
the best, and how few there are of those who with- 
out this seeking for worldly honor or favor are do- 
ins: good works? Take all the alms given in the 
whole papacy, and count up as many as you can 
find, that are not given with this intention. Yes, 
the world will never get to understand what it 
really means to give alms. For we are all. inclined 
that way, if the people would not begin to praise 
us, or to show us honor, gratitude or favor, every 
one would soon draw back his hand. For if the 
pope had said to the princes and founders [of mon- 
asteries, etc.]: Gentlemen, I will not give you a 
penny for all your foundations and alms, etc., what 
do you suppose they would have given for churches 
and other institutions? They would not have had 
a stone hauled or laid in position; as we now see, be- 
cause we teach correctly and exhort to these works, 
so that we are to give for God's sake, from a pure, 
simple heart, without any seeking for our own 
honor or merit, etc., now nobody wants to give a 
cent. But hitherto, when they had praise and 

232 Luther's commentary on the 

lienor for doino- it, it snowed with alms, endow- 
ments and wills; and yet this had something- to do 
with it, that men believed they were meriting 
heaven thereby; nevertheless, that was not the real 
reason, but it was just what Christ here says, that 
it was a great thing in the e}-es of the people, and 
was praised. Otherwise they would not have cared 
for it, so as to do it for the sake of God and the 
kingdom of heaven. 

This we can readily understand by the fact, as 
said above, that if we persuade and urge the peo- 
ple most earnestly to perform such good works, 
and represent it in the most attractive way that we 
can, as something heartily pleasing to God, along 
with all the angels in heaven, and that God will 
reward it a hundred fold: still nobody will touch 
it. What is the defect in our plea? Simply this, 
that one is no longer to get for it praise and honor, 
gratitude and praise before the world. Because the 
head is cut off, the body will not follow au)- more. 
But if the head were to become alive again, then 
things would soon move on again as they used to 
do, when this was the way it went. If a rich 
prince gave so much to a monastery, then they all 
came and said: Deo gratias! and they promised to 
merit it [God's favor] with their prayers and divine 
worship. That had to be proclaimed in all pulpits, 
and all the world had to say: O, that is a splendid 
deed ! That is the way it was done everywhere in 


all the papacy; although there may have been a 
few whom God found honest. See, this is a sure 
indication that this was done only so as to merit 
thereby gratitude, honor and praise. 

In addition to this you have also this evidence, 
that these saints soon become angry and withhold 
their gifts, if they experience ingratitude or con- 
tempt. For if they did not do it for the reason 
mentioned, they would not become angry at this, 
or for that reason cease, but they would continue 
and say: I did not begin it for that purpose, and 
for this reason I will not cease; but for God's honor 
and pleasure I will do it, even though no one gives 
me a good word for it. But if }'ou come scratch- 
ing along after this fashion: I have done so much 
for him, and it is forgotten already, and there's no 
gratitude in the people, etc., I would gladly take 
out my heart and give it to some one; but since I 
see that it has to be lost, and he shows himself so 
ungrateful, and all my labor and trouble go for 
nothing, I'll let him have hell fire before I give 
him a cent or a crust of bread; see, there the scamp 
peeps out, and you show by your own words why 
you are doing it, namely, that people are to worship 
and celebrate you, and honor you as a god; as we 
now see in the case of some great miserly bishops, 
how they can rage and scold, if one is not always 
thanking them, or saying what they like to hear, 
so that they even insult princes and lords with it, 
and want to blame everybody. 


See, this is the shameful perversion of good 
works, and the coimiion fault in all the world, that 
nobody does anything good without such a design. 
For the world cannot get out of the crazy notion, 
nor tolerate and overcome ingratitude. That is 
where the monks come from, who ran off into the 
wilderness, because they were too weak to endure 
this, that they should be in the world, help and do 
good to everybody, and get as their reward nothing 
but contempt, harm, disgrace and ingratitude. 
But what devil tells you to do a good work with 
the expectation of meriting the honor and favor of 
the world, which is uncertain and can soon fall 
away and be changed, and not to have a better ob- 
ject in view, namely God, for then it cannot be 
lost, as he will richly repay you, both now and 
hereafter? And you are served exactly right; since 
vou are such a rogue, and aim at nothing else than 
to be worshipped by the people, and make a god 
of yourself; he can ver}- well let the world and the 
devil deal with you, so as to take your godhead 
from you and throw it into the dirt, where it ought 
to lie. For, as you try to sit on God's throne and 
appropriate the honor that belongs to him, he very 
properly hurls you down again, so that complete 
disgrace is all the thanks you get for the stolen 

Therefore, it is a miserable business, as to the 
world [in its relation to alms-giving]: whethefit is 


professedly pious or wicked, in either case it is 
worthless. For it will either be an open devil, 
with evil works; or it will be God himself, with 
good works. It is intolerable, in either case. 
Therefore no one can do a good work unless he is a 
Christian. For if he does it as a man, then he 
does it not for the honor of God, but of himself and 
for his own benefit; or, if he pretends it is for 
God's honor, this is a malodorous lie. 

Thus Christ now means to teach how one is 
rightly to give alms, and says: If thou givest alms, 
do not have a trumpet sounded before thee, and 
have it loudly reported, so that a whole town must 
know it and talk about it; just as among us, when 
a charitable distribution is made, all the bells are 
rung; but, if you give alms, do it so that your left 
hand does not know what your right hand does. 
That is just what St. Paul says in Rom. xii. 8 and 
elsewhere: He that giveth, let him do it with sim- 
plicity. But to give with simplicity means that 
one does not seek thereby his own honor, favor, 
gratitude, or reward, and is not influenced by any 
one, whether he be unthankful or not; but he gives 
away freely what he wishes to give; just as God 
gives daily, and causes his sun to shine, regardless 
of the thankful or unthankful, just as if he saw no- 
body. That is a simple heart and intention, which 
neither seeks nor desires anything else than only 
God's will and honor. 


These simple alms we do not find among the 
worldly. For their giving is of snch a character, 
that the right hand gives, but the left hand takes 
That is called — givers, takers — as the children 
mockingly call each other; yes, given in such a 
way that one takes ten times as much in place of 
what he gives, as, where one gives a drop of water 
and takes a cask of wine. For the world gives in 
such a way that it will have the honor that is im- 
measurably greater than all money and property, 
and buys thee with a trifle, so that it may have in 
thee a perpetual captive, with body and life, and 
whatever thou hast, yes, and God himself besides. 

Therefore says Christ: If thou givest alms with 
the right hand, take care that thou dost not seek to 
take more with thy left hand; but hold it behind 
thee, and do not let it know anything about it; so 
that it means given with simplicity, and not taken, 
or given in such a way that one must owe thee ten 
times as much, and celebrate and worship thee as 
an idol; as our young squires now do — if they have 
served some with a ducat or two, they want to have 
him so bought and under sucli obligations to them, 
that he must let everything be gold that they say 
and do, and dare not say a word to them except 
what they like to hear. My good friend, if you 
can sell your bits at that rate, you are not a poor 
tradesman, by any means. 

Therefore let every one know how to guard 


against this vice, and watch himself closely that he 
be not also found among these. For there are but 
few people that are aware of it, and it deceives also 
even those who suppose they are very pious and 
full of good works, and are yet in this way twice as 
bad as others; thus God is specially hostile to this 
vice, and can less endure it than that one should 
openly rob his neighbor and do him wrong, than to 
give in this way, and so shamefully spoil the good 
work, so that you make of yourself an idol, and 
you more securely bind and hold your neighbor 
than any one else. But that is the way it goes; 
where the true doctrine lies prostrate, and yet 
everybody professes great piety, there these good 
works follow, that have nothing but a vain show, 
and do twice as much harm as open evil works. 

But some one may say: What is to come of it, 
that lie says that alms are to be secret? Is it ob- 
jectionable for one to let it be proclaimed and 
shown to those who are to take and receive it? 
Answer: No; you must see what Christ has in 
view, for he is looking at the heart and intention, 
namely, if it is given or bestowed so that honor and 
glory are sought by it, then it is of no value before 
God, although many poor may thereby be helped. 
But to give alms in secret means where the heart 
does not expose itself, or seek honor and name from 
it; but is so disposed that it gives away freely, 
without regarding whether it may have any show 


or praise before the people; yes, if besides it is de- 
spised and abused by everybody, thus it is called 
secret and done alone before God, even though it 
takes place openly before all the world. For it is 
covered over by this simplicity of the heart that does 
not inquire or care about the issue, let God decide, 
let come from it gratitude or ingratitude, good or 
evil. For thus I do not see it, though others may 
see it; thus I and others in our preacher's office 
must do, so that we do not concern ourselves 
whether we thereby please the people or not; yes, 
must rather expect for it contempt, ingratitude, 
persecution, and all sorts of misfortune. For every 
good work must expect this, and by it be tried and 
proved, that it may endure and be found upright; 
which is not the case with the other hypocritical 
sham work. 

In short, he who means to be a Christian must 
not want to do, or omit any good work, out of re- 
gard for others, but only in order to serve God with 
his office, calling, money, goods, or whatever he 
has or can do, and honor him so far as he can, al- 
though he may never merit any thanks thereby 
upon earth. For it is also impossible that a pious 
man should be here rewarded for the very smallest 
work that he does, even if he were crowned with 
gold and received a whole kingdom. Therefore 
he should look for nothing more than getting his 
bread and butter for it, and expect no reward from 


the world, that is not worthy to recompense a good 
work, or indeed to recognize and honor a real 
Christian; and if it even knows him, it is not so 
good as to thank him. Because, therefore, it is 
not undertaken out of regard for the world, it 
ought not to be omitted on its account; but it 
should be commended to God, who will abundantly 
reward it; not secretly, but openly, befoie the 
whole world and all angels. 

If we do not so understand and feel in this mat- 
ter, we cannot perform any really good work; but 
we become impatient, discontented, and allow our- 
selves to be overcome by the shameful ingratitude 
of the world, so that thereby this good work is 
ruined and lost; and it then appears that we meant 
to do it not for God's sake, but for the sake of the 
people. And as for myself, I would long ago have 
given the world its walking-papers and let it go to 
the devil, rather than let it hear a word from me. 
But it is no concern of hers, but of our dear Father 
in heaven; out of love for him, and for his praise 
and honor, we will preach and do good, because 
all else in the world is hostile to him and most 
shamefully despises and reviles him, and does all 
it can to oppose and vex him; and we take our 
comfort from the fact that he yet lives if all the 
world perishes; and because he has declared and 
promised that he will properly recompense and re- 
ward it, he surely will not lie to us. Then try it, 


and you will find that it will not fail \-ou. This, 
at first, in a general way, is what we have to say 
in regard to almsgiving and all other good works, 
how a Christian is to be disposed in heart in regard 
to them, etc. 

y. 5, 6. And 'cvhc7i thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the 
hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues 
and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. 
Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when 
thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy 
door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father 
which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 

Along with almsgiving, or doing good to our 
neighbor, it is also our Christian duty to pray. 
For, just as the necessities of the present life demand 
that we do good to our neighbor and sympathize 
with him in his need (for that is why we live to- 
gether upon earth, so that one may serve and help 
the other); so, because we are daily exposed in this 
life to all manner of danger and need, that we can- 
not avoid or turn aside, we must also ever call upon 
God and seek for help, both for ourselves and every 
one else. 

But as proper almsgiving is a rare thing in the 
world, not only because of the common robbing 
and stealing that abound in the world, as no one 
does good to his neighbor, and everybody scratches 
on his own dung-pile, and does not ask how his 
neighbor gets along; but also because if they do a 
good deed, they seek only their own interests 


thereby; so that thus the world is nothing else than 
a set of robbers and thieve's, both on the right and 
left, both bodily and spiritually, both in bad works 
and good; just so now is praying a rare thing, that 
no one does but Christians, and yet it was such a 
common thing in the world, especially among the 
Jews, as Christ here shows, in synagogues and at 
the corners of the streets, and now in so many 
churches, monasteries, nunneries, etc., muttering 
and bawling day and night with singing and read- 
ing, so that the world is everywhere full of it, and 
there is no lack of this work, and yet taken alto- 
gether it is not worth a cent. 

For since Christ here rebukes and rejects all their 
praying, who were nevertheless so diligently prac- 
ticing it, only that they might be seen of men and 
get glory; how much more is the praying of our 
ecclesiastics to be condemned, who seek nothing 
/else thereby than that they may fill their bellies, 
* and not one of them would say Oi pater noster if he 
did not get pay for it. And when they have done 
their best, they have mumbled over a bag-full of 
words, or intoned them, without heart, sense or 
faith, just like bells or organs; they have gotten 
thereby the honor and glory of being the only ones 
that pray; but that the others, as occupied with 
worldly affairs, cannot pray or serve God, and they 
must pray in our stead, so that we may make lords 
of them by our money and 00 Is. 


But how necessary prayer is, is not to be told 
here; we ought indeed ourselves to feel this, since 
we live in flesh and blood that are full of all sorts 
of evil tendencies; besides, we have the world 
around us and against us, that causes us much 
misery and affliction, and manifold trouble; and 
in addition the devil is everywhere around us, who 
originates innumerable sects, parties and heresies, 
and drives us to unbelief, despair, etc., so that 
there is no end to this, and we have no rest, be- 
cause we are surrounded by these enemies who do 
not cease until they have stricken us down, for we 
as single poor men are much too weak for so many 
enemies. Therefore God says in the prophet Zecha- 
riah xii. lo, that he will give" to his own "the 
spirit of grace and of supplication," wherewith 
they may be sustained during their present expo- 
sure, and guard and defend themselves against the 
evil, harmful spirit. Therefore it is the special 
work of Christians, who have the Spirit of God, 
that they be not weary and idle, but pray without 
ceasing, as Christ elsewhere teaches. 

But now comes the test, that it be a genuine 
prayer and not a hypocritical one, as theirs was, 
and ours has hitherto been. Therefore Christ be- 
gins by teaching them how to pray aright, and 
shows how they are to go about it, namely, that 
they should not stand and pray openly upon the 
streets, but should pray at home, alone, in their 


chamber, in secret, etc. : that is, that they should 
first of all lay aside the false desire to pray for the 
sake of the appearance and reputation, or anything 
of that kind. Not that we are forbidden to pray 
upon the street or openly; for a Christian is not 
bound to any place, and may pray anywhere, upon 
the street, in the field, or in church; but merely, 
that it must not be done with reference to the peo- 
ple, to get honor and profit from it, just as he for- 
bids sounding a trumpet or bells at alms-giving — 
not for that reason, but he rebukes the addition 
and the false motive with these words: that they 
may be seen of men. 

Thus it is also not commanded as necessary that 
we must go into a closet and shut the door; al- 
though it is suitable for one to be alone when he 
wishes to pray, as he can pour out his prayer to 
God free and unhindered, and use words and ges- 
tures that he could not in the presence of others. 
For although prayer can take place in the heart 
without any word or outward indication, yet this 
helps to stir up and enkindle the spirit; but the 
heart should, aside from this, be praying almost 
without intermission. For a Christian (as above 
said) has the spirit of supplication always present 
within him, so that his heart is perpetually en- 
gaged in supplication and prayer to God, whether 
he is eating, drinking, laboring, etc. For his 
whole life is devoted to the dissemination of the 

244 Luther's commentary on the 

name, honor, and kingdom of God, so that what- 
ever he does ninst contribute to this. 

But yet (I say) in addition to this we must also 
pray ontwartily; both individually, that each per- 
son use a benediction or a Lord's Prayer, or the 
Creed, or a psalm, in the morning, in the evening, 
at table, and when he has time, and collectively, 
when they come together, handle the word of God, 
and thereupon thank him and call upon him in view 
of the common need. This has to be done openly, 
and time and place are set apart for this purpose, 
when the people assemble; this is a precious method 
of prayer, and a strong defence against the devil 
and his wiles, for then the whole Christian com- 
munity combines with one accord, and the more 
earnest the effort, the sooner the prayer is heard, 
and the more efficient it is: as it is even now doing 
much good, averting and hindering many artifices 
of the devil, that he would otherwise employ 
through his agents, so that surely what is now left 
secure, both in ecclesiastical and secular affairs, is 
preserved through prayer. 

But what are the needful elements and character- 
istics for constituting a real prayer, I have often 
elsewhere said and treated of, namely, to repeat in 
a word, that we are urged to it, first, by the com- 
mand of God, who has strictly enjoined it upon us 
to pray; then, his promise, in which he assures 
that he will hear us; thirdly, our contemplation of 


our need and misery, which so oppresses and bur- 
dens us that we greatly need to carry this straight 
to God, and pour it out before him, as he has com- 
manded; fourthly, that we upon this word and 
promise of God pray with true faith, in full confi- 
dence that he will hear and help us; and all this 
in the name of Christ, through whom our prayer 
is acceptable to the Father, and for whose sake he 
gives us every grace and blessing. 

This Christ shows also here with the word: Pray 
to thy Father in secret, etc., and afterwards more 
distinctly, where he says: Our Father who art in 
heaven, etc. For this amounts to sa5nng that our 
prayer is to be addressed to God as to our gracious, 
kind Father, not as to a tyrant or angry judge, etc. 
Now no one can do that unless he has the word of 
God, that he wishes to have us call him Father, 
and that as a Father he has promised to hear and 
help us, and that he have this faith in his heart, 
so that he cheerfully dare call God his Father, and 
pray with hearty confidence, and rely upon this 
prayer, as assuredly heard, and await help. 

But there were none of these elements in that 
Pharisaic prayer, for they thought no further than 
how the work was to be done, so that they might 
be looked upon as holy people, who like to pray; 
or like our monks and priests, so that they may 
fill their belly by it. Yes, they are so far from 
holding that they ought to pray with such faith, 


that they have regarded it as a folly and presump- 
tion that one should congratulate himself upon the 
certainty that his prayer is acceptable to God and 
heard by him; and thus, although they prayed, 
they counted everything as a pure venture, and 
thereby grievously angered God by unbelief and 
abuse of his name, against the first and second 

Therefore learn here that no true prayer can be 
offered without this faith. Do you, however, feel 
weak and timid? for flesh and blood always hinder 
faith, as if you were not worthy or fit and in earn- 
est to pray; or do you doubt whether God has 
heard you, because you are a sinner? then cling to 
the word and say: Though I am a sinner and un- 
worthy, yet I have the command of God, that tells 
me to pray, and his promise that he will graciously 
hear me, not because of my worthiness, but for the 
sake of the Lord Christ. By this means 3'^ou can 
drive away the thoughts and doubts, and cheer- 
fully kneel down and pray, not regarding your 
worthiness or unworthiness, but your need and his 
word upon which he tells you to build; especially 
since he has placed before you and put into your 
mouth the words how and what you are to pray for 
(as follows), so that you joyously send up these 
prayers through him, and can lay them in his 
'bosom, that he may lay them by his own worthi- 
ness before the Father. 


V. 7-13. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the 
heathen do : for they think they shall be heard for their much 
speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them : for your Father 
knoweih what things ye have need of before ye ask hint. Ajter 
this manner therefore pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven, 
Halloiued be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done 
in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors ; And lead 
us not into temptation, but deliver us from, evil : For thine is 
the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 

He rebuked above their wrong intention iii 
prayer, as they sought their own honor and profit 
among the people even in doing that which was di- 
rected to God alone, calling upon him and beseech- 
ing him for help in our need and temptation. 
Here he is rebuking this perversion of prayer, that 
they suppose it is praying if one uses many words 
and vain repetitions, and he calls it a heathenish 
method, a trifling useless prattle, as of those who 
suppose they will otherwise not be heard. For he 
saw very well that this would be the case, and that 
such an abuse would continue in Christendom, as 
it existed among them already at that time, so that 
prayer would be made a mere work, that would be 
valued in proportion to its size and length, as if 
thereby it were admirably done, and thus instead 
of a true prayer there was a mere prattle and bali)- 
bling, of which the heart knew nothing. 

Thus, as we see, it was carried on in monasteries, 
nunneries and the whole ecclesiastical crowd, that 
seem to have had nothingf else to do in their call- 


ing than to weary themselves daily so many hours, 
and at night besides, with singing and reading 
their Horas; and the more of this they could do, 
the holier and greater worship they called it.. And 
yet among them all there was not one that uttered 
a real prayer from his heart: but they were all filled 
with the heathenish notion that one must tire God 
and one's self with crying and muttering, as if he 
neither could nor would otlierwise hear; and they 
have thereby accomplished nothing else than to 
waste their time and punish themselves like asses, 
with their praying. 

Therefore they have themselves said that there is 
no harder work than to pray; and that is in fact 
true, if you aim to make a work or labor out of 
your praying, imposing upon your bod\- to read or 
sing so many hours continuously, so that any day 
laborer would rather choose to thresh for a whole 
day, than only to move his mouth for two or three 
hours one after another, or look straight into a 
book. In short their prayer was not a sighing or 
desire of the heart, but a mere force-work of the 
mouth or tongue: so that if a monk has been read- 
ing or muttering his Horas for forty years, he has 
not prayed from his heart for an hour during all 
that time. For they never think of presenting 
their wants before God in their prayers, but they 
think only that they must do it, and God must re- 
gard this trouble and toil. 


But the Christian's prayer, which is offered in 
faith upon the promise of God, and presents before 
him from the heart its need, that is easy, and oc- 
casions no labor. For faith soon tells what it wants, 
yes, with a sigh that the heart utters and that can- 
not be reached or uttered in words, as Paul says. 
The Christian prays, and because he knows that 
God hears him, he does not need to prate everlast- 
ingly. Thus the saints in the Scriptures prayed, 
as Blijah, Elisha, David and others, with short, but 
strong and powerful words; as we see in the Psalms, 
in which there is hardly one that has a prayer of 
more than five or six verses. Therefore the old 
fathers have very properly said, there is no use in 
many, long prayers, but they praise the short ejacu- 
latory prayers, in which one lifts a sigh heaven- 
ward with a word or two; which one can do very 
often when he is reading, writing, or doing some 
other work. 

But the others, who make only a huge labor out 
of it, can never pray with satisfaction or with de- 
votion, but they are glad when they are through 
with their babbling; for it must be so, if one prays 
without faith and with no feeling of need, thus 
there can be no heart in it: but if the heart is not 
in it, and the body is to do the work, then it be- 
comes difficult and vexatious; as we see also in sec- 
ular labor: he who does anything unwillingly, how 
difiicult and disagreeable it is; but on the contrary, 

250 luthkr's commentary on the 

if the heart is cheerful and willing, then it takes no 
notice of the work. So also it is here; if one is 
in earnest about it, and takes pleasure in prayer, 
then he neither knows nor feels any labor or trouble, 
but looks only at his need, and has finished singing 
or praying the words before he knows what he is 
about. In short, one should pray short, but often 
and strongly; for God does not ask how much and 
long one has prayed, but how good it is and how it 
comes from the heart. 

Therefore Christ now says: Your Heavenly 
Father knows what you need before you ask for it; 
as if he would say: What are you about, that you 
think to overwhelm him with your long babbling, 
so that he may give you what you need? You do 
not need to convince him with words, or instruct 
him at length; for^ he knows beforehand better 
what you need than you do yourselves. Just as if 
you were to come before a prince or a judge who 
knew your case better than you could describe it to 
him, and you would undertake to make a long 
story to inform him about it, he would rightly 
laugh at you, or rather be offended at you. Yes, 
we do not know, says St. Paul, how we are to pray; 
so that, if he hears us and gives us something, he 
gives it above what we can understand or hope for. 
Therefore sometimes he lets us ask for something 
that he does not soon give, or indeed does not give 
at all, as knowing very well what we need or what 


would be useful to us or not; what we ourselves 
do not see, and at last must ourselves confess that 
it would not have been good for us if he had given 
to us in accordance with our prayer. Therefore we 
need not teach him or prescribe with our long bab- 
bling what and how he is to give to us: for he will 
give in such a way that his name may be hallowed 
and his kingdom and his will may be advanced and 
promoted, etc. 

But do you say: Why then does he let us pray 
and present our need, and does not give it to us un- 
asked, since he knows and sees all our need better 
than we do ? He gives surely to the whole world 
daily so much good freely, as sun, rain, corn, 
money, body, life, etc., which no one asks or is 
grateful for; as he knows that they cannot get 
along for a single day without light, eating and 
drinking; why does he then tell us to pray for 
these things? Answer: He does not require it, in- 
deed, for the reason that we are to teach him this 
with our praying, viz., what he is to give us, but 
in order that we may acknowledge and confess 
what kind of blessings he is bestowing upon us, 
and yet much more he can and will give; so that 
we by our praying are rather instructing ourselves 
than hi-m. For thereby I am turned about, that I 
do not go along like the ungodly that never ac- 
knowledge this or offer thanks for it; and my heart 
is thus turned to him and aroused, so that I praise 


and thank liiiii, and have recourse to him in time 
of need and look for help from him; and the effect 
of all this is that I learn more and more to ac- 
knowledge what kind of a God he is; and because 
I address my supplications to him, he is the more 
disposed to answer me abundantly. See, this is 
now a genuine supplicant, not like those other use- 
less talkers, who babble indeed a great deal, but 
never acknowledge this. But he knows that what 
he has is the gift of God, and he says from his 
heart: Lord, I know that I cannot of myself pro- 
duce or get a piece of my daily bread, or shield my- 
self against any kind of need or misfortune; there- 
fore I will- await it and beseech it from thee, as 
thou dost teach me, and dost promise to give me, 
as he who is ready with favors regardless of my 
thoughts, and who anticipates my need. 

See, such acknowledgment in prayer is pleasing 
to God, and is the true, highest and most precious 
worship which we can render to him; for thereby 
the honor and gratitude that are due are given to 
him. This the others do not do, but they seize 
and devour all the gifts of God, just as hogs; they 
appropriate one country, city, house, after another; 
never think of paying any regard to God; want 
meanwhile to be holy with their great intonations 
and babbling in the churches. But a Christian 
heart, that learns out of the word of God, that we 
have evervthinof from God and nothing^ from our- 


selves, sucli a heart accepts this in faith and 
familiarizes itself with it, so that it can look to 
him for everything and expect it from him. Thus 
praying teaches ns, so that we recognize both our- 
selves and God, and learn what we need and 
whence we are to seek for it and get it. Thus 
there is developed an excellent, sensible man, who 
can readily adapt himself to all circumstances. 

Christ, having thus rebuked and rejected these 
false and useless prayers, proceeds himself to give 
an excellent brief form, how and what we are to 
pray, that embraces all kinds of wants that are to 
drive us to prayer, so that we can daily remind 
ourselves of them in such short words, and no one 
may be excused, as though he did not know how 
or what he is to pray; and it is a very good practice 
especially for ordinary people, children and house 
servants, to pray the whole of the Lord's prayer 
daily, morning and evening and at table, and also 
at other times, so that one may present to God in 
it all our needs in general. Since, however, the 
Lord's Prayer is sufficiently expounded in the 
Catechism and elsewhere, I will add no further 
comments at present. 

It is, however, as has often been said, surely the 
very best prayer that was ever uttered upon earth, 
or that any one could conceive, since God the 
Father gave it through his Son, and laid it upon 
his lips; so that we dare not doubt that it is ex- 


treniely pleasing to him. He admonishes us at the 
very beginning, both concerning' his command and 
his promise, in the word: " Our Father," etc. , as 
the one who demands from us this honor, that we 
are to ask from him, as a child from its father, and 
he wants us to have the confidence that he will 
gladly give us what we need; and this is further 
also a part of it, that we glory in being his children 
through Christ; and thus we come in accordance 
with his command and promise, and in the name 
of the Lord Christ, and appear before him with all 

Now, the first, second and third petitions refer 
to the highest benefits that we receive from him: 
namely, first, because he is our Father, that he may 
have his honor from us, and his name be held in 
high honor in all the world. Herewith I gather into 
one heap all sorts of false belief and worship, the 
whole of hell, all sin and blasphemy, and pray that 
he may put a stop to the abominable belief of the 
pope, the Turks, the factious spirits and heretics, 
all of whom desecrate and abuse his name, or 
under his name seek their own honor. There are 
indeed but few words, but their meaning is as wide 
as the world, against all false doctrine and life. 
Secondly, after we have his word and true doctrine 
and worship, that also his kingdom may be and 
remain in us, that is, that he may control us in 
this doctrine and life, and thereby protect and pre- 


serve us against all the power of the devil and of 
his kingdom, and that all the kingdoms that rage 
against it may go to destruction, so that this king- 
dom may stand. And, thirdly, that not our will, 
nor that of any man, but alone his will may be 
done, and that what he thinks and advises may 
succeed, in opposition to all designs and under- 
takings of the world and whatever may strive 
against this will and counsel, even if the whole 
world masses itself and struggles to maintain its 
antagonistic cause. These are the three most im- 
portant topics. 

In the other four petitions we find ourselves con- 
fronted by the need that daily meets us on our own 
account, with reference to this poor, weak, tem- 
poral life. Therefore we pray, in the first place, 
that he may give us our daily bread, that is, every- 
thing that is needful for the preservation of this 
life: food, a healthy body, good weather, house, 
home, wife, child, good government, peace, and 
that he may preserve us from all manner of calam- 
ity, sickness, pestilence, dear times, war, insur- 
rection, etc. Then, that he may forgive us our 
trespasses, and not regard the shameful misuse of 
and ingratitude for the blessings which he daily so 
richly bestows upon us, and that he may not for 
this reason refuse and deny us these or punish us 
with the disfavor that we deserve; but graciously 
forgive us, although we, who are called Christians 


and hiscliildren, do not live as we should. Tliirdly, 
I because we are living upon earth, in tlie midst of 
' all manner of temptation and vexation, where we 
are assaulted on every side, so that we are hin- 
I dered, and are tempted not alone outwardly by the; 
! world and the devil, but also inwardly by our own 
flesh, so that we cannot live as we should, nor be 
able to endure for a day amid so much danger and 
temptation; we pray therefore that amid this dan- 
ger and need he may sustain us, so that we are not 
thereby overcome and ruined. And, finally, that 
he may at last wholly deliver us from all evil, and 
when the time comes, that we are to pass out of 
this life, may grant us a gracious, happy dying 
hour. Thus we have laid upon his bosom briefly 
all our bodily and spiritual need, and in a few 
words have gathered up a world of meaning. 

But there is in the text a small appendage that 
closes the prayer, as with a common grateful con- 
fession; which is this: For thine is the kingdom, 
and the power, and the glory, for ever. These are 
the proper titles and names that belong to God 
alone. For these three things he has reserved for 
himself, that is, to govern, to judge, and to glory. 
No one has a right to rule or have supremacy ex- 
cept God alone, or those to whom he has entrusted 
it, through whom as his servants he exercises the 
control. Likewise no man has a right to judge an- 
other, or to be angry and punish, except he who 


holds the office by divine appointment. For it is 
not a natural right of men, but one given by God. 

These are the two, that he here calls the king- 
dom, or the sovereignty, so that all authority may 
be his; and then, the power, that is, the result of 
the deciding, exsecutio^ so that he can punish, hold 
the wicked in subjection and protect the pious. 
For he who punishes, does it in God's stead, and it 
is all owing to his power that one handles justice, 
protects and sustains. Therefore let no one avenge 
himself or punish, for it is not his office or sphere, 
and it does not avail; as he says: Vengeance is 
mine, I will repay; and elsewhere he threatens: He 
who takes the sword, shall perish by the sword. 

So also the glory, or honor, is alone God's own, 
so that no one may boast of anything, of his wis- 
dom, holiness or ability, except through him and 
from him. For, that I honor a king or prince and 
call him Gracious Lord, or bend the knee before 
him, this is not done on account of his person, but 
on God's account, as he is sitting in majesty in 
God's stead. So, when I show honor to father and 
mother, or to those who are in their stead, I do 
this not to man, but to the divine office, and I 
honor God in them; thus, where there is authority 
and power, to this is due honor and glory. 

And thus his kingdom, power and glory prei^ail 
in the whole world, so that he alone rules, punishes 
and is glorified in the divine offices and estates, as 


father, mother, master, judge, prince, king, em- 
peror, etc., although the devil, through his agents, 
opposes himself and aims to hold the authority and 
power, exercise vengeance and punishment and 
monopolize all the glory. Therefore we pray also 
especially for his name, his kingdom and his will, 
as those that alone should avail, and that all other 
names, kingdoms, power and will may go to de- 
struction; and we thus confess that he is the high- 
est in all these three respects, but the others are his 
instruments, by which he acts and accomplishes 
these things. 

V. 14, 15. '^ For if ye forgive men their tresspasses, your 
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not 
men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your 

That is a remarkable addition, but a very pre- 
cious one; and any one may well wonder how he 
happens to add such an appendix to this particular 
petition: Forgive us our trespasses, etc., whilst he 
might just as well have added also such a fragment 
to one of the others, and have said: Give us our 
daily bread, as we give to our children; or. Lead us 
not into temptation, as we tempt no one; Deliver 
us from evil, as we rescue and deliver our neighbor; 
and yet no petition has anything added to it except 
this one. And it looks besides as if the forgiveness 
of sins was gained and merited by our forgiving: 
what would then become of our doctrine that for- 


giveuess comes alone tlirougli Christ and is re- 
ceived by faith? Answer to the first: He meant 
especially to state this petition in such a way, and 
to link the forgiveness of sin to our forgiving, so 
that hereby he would obligate the Christians to love 
each other, and to make this their main and fore- 
most duty, next to faith -and the reception of for- 
giveness, to be constantly forgiving their neighbor; 
so that, as we live in faith toward him, so also to- 
wards our neighbor in love, that we do not vex or 
injure others, but think that we always forgive 
although we are injured (as this must often happen 
in this life); or we are to know that we are also not 
forgiven. For if anger and ill-will be present, this 
spoils the whole prayer, so that one cannot pray or 
wish any of the former petitions. See, this means 
the making of a firm and strong bond, by which 
we are held together, so that we do not become dis- 
united, and create divisions, parties and sects, in- 
stead of our coming before God, to pray and get 
what we need: but we are to forbear with one 
another through love, and remain of one accord. If 
this be the case, the Christian man is perfect, as 
both believing and loving aright. What other 
faults he may have, these are consumed in the 
prayer, and all is forgiven and cancelled. 

But how does he attach in these words forgive- 
ness to our doing when he says: If you forgive 
your neighbor, you shall be forgiven, and again, 


etc.? Does not that make forgiveness depend npon 
faith? Answer: The forgiveness of sin, as I have 
often said elsewhere, occurs in two ways; first, 
through the Gospel and the word of God, which is 
received internally in the heart before God, through 
faith; secondly, externally, by works, of which 2 
Peter i. 10 says, when he is teaching about good 
works: Dear brethren, be diligent to make your call- 
ing and election sure, etc. Here he means, that we 
are to make this sure, that we have faith and the for- 
giveness of sin, that is, that we show the works, so 
that one may tell the tree by the fruits, and that it 
may be manifest that it is a good and not an evil tree. 
For where there is true faith, there assuredly good 
works will follow. In this way a man is both in- 
wardly and outwardly pious and upright, both be- 
fore God and man. For this is the result and the 
fruit, with which I make myself and others sure 
that I am a true believer; which I cannot otherwise 
know or see. 

So also here the external forgiveness which I 
practically show is a sure sign that I have the di- 
vine forgiveness of my sins. Again, if this is not 
shown towards my neighbor, then I have a sure 
proof that I am not forgiven before God, but am 
still in unbelief See, this is the twofold forgive- 
ness; one internal in the heart, that clings alone 
to the word of God; and one external, that breaks 
forth, and assures us that we have the internal 


Thus we distinguish works from faith, as an in- 
ternal and external righteousness; but in such a way 
that the internal is there first, as the root and stem 
from which the good works as the fruit must grow; 
the external, however, their witness, and as Peter 
says, certification an assurance that the other is cer- 
tainly there. For he who has not the internal 
righteousness, he does none of the external works. 
Again, if the external signs and proofs be wanting, 
I cannot be sure of the former, but am deceiving 
both myself and others. But if I see and feel that 
I am gladly forgiving my neighbor, then I can 
conclude and say: I do not this work naturally, but 
I feel myself through the grace of God disposed 
otherwise than before. 

This is a short answer to the twaddle of the 
sophists. But this is also true, that this work, as 
he here calls it, is not a mere work like others that 
we do of ourselves; for faith is not thereby over- 
looked. For he takes this work and plants a 
promise upon it, so that one might honestly call it 
a sacrament, thereby to strengthen faith. Just as 
baptism too is to be regarded as a work that I do, 
when I baptize or am baptized; but because God's 
word is associated with it, it is not a mere work, as 
that which itself avails or effects something: but a 
divine word and token upon which faith rests. 
Thus also, our prayer, as our work, would not 
avail or effect anything; but its efiicacy comes 


from this, that it is done in accordance with his 
command and promise, so that it may well be re- 
garded as a sacrament, and rather as "a divine work 
than as one of our own. 

I say this for this reason, because the sophists 
look at the works that we do, only by themselves, 
aside from God's word and promise. Therefore, 
when they hear and read these passages that refer 
to works, they must indeed say that man merits 
this by his doing. But the Scriptures teach thus: 
that we are not to look to ourselves, but to God's 
word and promise, and cling to this by faith, so 
that, if you do a work prompted by the word and 
promise, then you have a sure proof that God is 
gracious to you; in such a way that your own work, 
that God has now taken to himself, is to be to you 
a sure proof of forgiveness, etc. 

Now God has provided various ways, modes and 
manners, through which we obtain grace and the 
forgiveness of sins; as, first, baptism and the sacra- 
ment; also (as just said) prayer; also absolution; 
and here our forgiveness; so that we are richly pro- 
vided for, and can find grace and mercy everywhere. 
For where would you seek it nearer than with your 
neighbor, with whom you are daily living, and 
have daily occasion to practice this forgiveness? 
For it cannot be that you are not much and often 
offended: so that we have not only in church or 
with the priest, but in the midst of our life, a daily 


sacrament or baptism, one brother with another, 
and every one at home in his house. For if you 
take hold of the promise through this work, you 
have the very thing that you get in baptism. How 
could God be more richly gracious to us than by 
hanging about our neck such a common baptism, 
and binding it to the Lord's prayer, which [bap- 
tism] every one realizes in himself when he prays 
and forgives his neighbor? So that no one has 
cause to complain or to excuse himself, that he 
cannot bring himself to it, and it is too high and 
far off for him, or too heavy and dear, since it is 
brought home to him and his neighbor, right be- 
fore his door, yes, put into his bosom. 

See, if you look at it, not with reference to 
the work itself, but with reference to the word 
which is associated with it, you find it an ex- 
cellent, precious treasure, so that it is no longer 
your work but a divine sacrament; and it is a pow- 
erful consolation that you can attain to the grace 
of forgiving your neighbor, although you may not 
be able to come to other sacraments. This ought 
to induce you willingly to do this work from the 
heart, and to be thankful to God that you are 
worthy of this grace: you ought surely to run after 
this to the end of the world, and spend all your 
means for it; as we used to do for the fictitious in- 
dulgences. He who will not receive this must be 
a shameful, cursed man, especially if he hears of 


and recognizes this grace, and yet remains so 
crooked and stubborn that he will not forgive, 
whereby he at once loses both baptism and sacra- 
ment and everything else. For they are all linked 
together, so that he who has one should have them 
all, or retain none. For he who has been baptized 
ought also to receive the sacrament; and he who 
receives the sacrament must also pray; and he who 
prays must also forgive, etc. If }'ou do not forgive, 
5'ou have here a fearful sentence, that \our sins 
also shall not be forgiven, although you are among 
Christians and are enjoying the sacrament and 
other blessings; but these will be all the more in- 
jurious and condemnatory for you. 

And that Christ may the more incite us to do 
this, he has employed kind, friendly words, saying: 
If ye forgive men their trespasses, etc. He does not 
say: their wickedness and villainy, or perverseness 
and vice, etc. For by a trespass he means such a 
sin as is committed rather through weakness or 
ignorance than from malice. Why does he thus 
minimize and reduce the sin of our neighbor — for 
we often see that many a one sins deliberateh', 
from sheer wickedness and an evil will? He does 
it for the reason that he wishes to allay your anger, 
and soften 5'OU, that you may willingly forgive, 
and he is more concerned to make your heart sweet 
and friendly than to make the sin as great as it is 
. in itself. 


For before God it is and must be so great, that 
it deserves eternal condemnation, and excludes 
from heaven, even though it be a small sin, and 
only a fault, if one does not acknowledge, and ask 
your pardon for it. But he does not mean that the 
sin should be thus regarded by you and me, whose 
prerogative it is not to punish sin, but to forgive it; 
so that you should think thus: Although your 
neighbor has done something against you through 
malice, yet he is still misled, taken captive and 
blinded by the devil. Therefore you ought to be 
so pious as to rather pity him, who is overcome by 
the devil, so that it may be called a great, unpar- 
donable sin, on the part of the devil who has put 
him up to it, but on the part of your neighbor, a 
failure and fault; as Christ also himself has done 
toward us, when he prayed on the cross: Father, 
forgive them, for they know not what they do. 
That was making our sin small and of little ac- 
count, which is yet in itself the very greatest that 
was ever committed on earth. For what greater 
sin can be committed than most shamefully to tor- 
ture and kill the only-begotten Son of God? 

Yet you must so interpret this error and fault 
that your neighbor who has sinned against you may 
acknowledge it, and request forgiveness and desire 
to reform. For I have elsewhere said that there are 
two kinds of sin; one that is confessed, which no 
one should leave unforgiven; the other which is de- 


fended — this one none can forgive, for it will not be 
regarded as sin or accepted as forgiveness. There- 
fore, also Christ, Matt, xviii. i8, where he is speak- 
ing of forgiveness or the keys, places both side by 
side, binding and loosing; to show that one cannot 
absolve the sin which one will not acknowledge to 
be sin or have forgiven, but must bind it in the depth 
of hell; but on the other hand, those which are 
confessed we are to absolve and raise to heaven, etc. 
Just as it is with the office of the keys, so is it 
also with each Christian in regard to his neighbor; 
who, although he should be ready to forgive every 
one that injures him, yet, if any one will not ac- 
knowledge and refrain from sin, but besides will 
continue in it, you cannot forgive him; and this 
not on your account, but on his, because he will not 
have forgiveness. But so soon as he acknowledges 
his guilt and asks forgiveness, everything must be 
granted, and the absolution follow promptly. For 
since he rebukes himself and forsakes his sins, so 
that no sin any longer adheres to him, I should the 
rather pass them by; if he however himself clings 
to them, and will not forsake them, I cannot take 
them from him, but must let him lie in them, 
making for himself out of a pardonable sin an un- 
pardonable one. In short, if he will not recognize 
himself, we must burden his conscience as heavily 
as possible and show no mercy, as he will perversely 
be the devil's own. On the other hand, if he con- 


fesses his sin, and seeks your pardon, and you 
refuse to forgive, then you have laden it upon 
yourself, so that it will condemn you too. 

Thus Christ intends also that the sin be con- 
fessed, inasmuch as he still calls it a transgression; 
he does not mean to deny that it is wrong, or to 
impose it upon you to sanction it as properly done, 
or treat it as right or good; only if it have become 
pardonable, and of so small an account as to be 
called only a fault, that you then say to your 
neighbor: Although I cannot praise it, and- it is 
wrong, yet, since you acknowledge your error and 
your heart is now changed, and you have no ill-will 
against me, I will also gladly overlook it as a fault 
and oversight, and will forget my anger. 

If you now are thus disposed towards your neigh- 
bor, God will also show himself again towards you 
with a sweet friendly heart, and he will make your 
great, heavy sin that you have committed against 
him, and are still committing, of such small ac- 
count that he calls it only a fault, if you acknowl- 
edge it and pray for forgiveness, as he is more 
inclined to forgive than we can expect him to be. 
Now you should offer your body and life to God 
for such a heart, and seek for it to the end of the 
world; as they used to seek for it in the papacy, 
and worried themselves for it with many kinds of 
works. Now there is here such a heart offered to 
you, presented and given altogether gratuitously, 


just as baptism, the gospel and all its blessings; 
and you get more than you with all your works 
and those of all men could acquire. For here you 
have the sure promise that cannot belie or deceive 
you, that all your sins, however many or great they 
may be, shall be before him as small as human 
daily weaknesses, which he will not conut or re- 
member so far as you have faith in Christ. For 
just as other sacraments originate in and operate 
through the Lord Christ; so also, that our prayer 
is heard and, we have certain forgiveness; that we 
have not deserved it, but all is acquired through 
him and bestowed upon us; so that he always re- 
mains the sole Mediator, through whom we have 
everything, so that also the forgiveness based upon 
this work avails alone through him. 

So you see now why Christ added this append- 
age to the prayer, so that he might thereby nnite 
us the more closely together, and preserve his fol- 
lowers in unity of spirit, both in faith and love, so 
that we do not allow ourselves to be separated on 
account of any sin or fault, that we may not lose 
faith and everything else. For it cannot be other- 
wise than that many offenses will daily occur 
amongst us in all callings and kinds of business, 
when we are saying and doing towards one another 
what one does not like to hear or endure, and give 
occasion to wrath and contention. For we still 
have our flesh and blood, that acts after its own 


fashion, and easily lets slip an evil word, or an 
angry sign or deed, by which love is wounded, in 
such" a wa)- that there must be much forgiveness 
among Christians; as we also incessantly need for- 
giveness from God, and must always cling to the 
prayer: Forgive us, as we forgive; unless we are 
such ungodly people, that we always more readily 
see a mote in our neighbor's eye than the beam in 
our own, and throw our sins behind us. For, if 
we should look at ourselves daily from morning till 
evening, we should find so many cleaving to us 
that we should forget other people, and be glad 
that we could engage in prayer. 

V. 16-18. Moreover luhen ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of 
a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may 
appear unto men to fast. Verity, I say unto you, they have their 
reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash 
thy face ; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy 
Father which is in secret ; and thy Father which seeth in secret 
shall reioard thee openly. 

As he rebuked their almsgiving and praying, so 
does he here rebuke their fasting. For these are 
about the three good works that comprehend all 
the rest: the first, all kinds of good deeds toward 
our neighbor; the second, that we are concerned 
about all manner of needs, both those of others and 
our own, and bring them before God; the third, 
that we mortify our body. But, as they had shame- 
fully abused both almsgiving and praying, so that 


they thereby sought not God's honor but their own 
glory; so did they also abuse and pervert fasting, 
not to keep their own body under constraint and in 
discipline, nor to praise and thank God; but to be 
seen of men, and have a name, so that people 
would have to be astonished, and say: O these are 
excellent saints, who do not live like other com- 
mon people, but go about in gray coats, hanging 
their heads, looking sad and pale, etc. If these do 
not get to heaven, what will become of the rest 
of us? 

But he does not mean to have fasting in itself 
rejected or despised, just as little as he rejects alms- 
giving and praying, but he rather confirms these, 
and teaches how to use them aright: so he means 
to properly restore fasting, so that it be rightly 
used and properly understood, .as should be the 
case with a good work. 

It originated among the Jews, when IMoses com- 
manded them to fast about fourteen consecutive 
days, in the autumn, at the feast of expiation. 
That was the common fast, which they all observed 
at the same time. In addition the Pharisees had 
their special fasts, so that they did something more 
and were counted more holy than others. For that 
fast was not appointed that they might thereby be 
seen and observed by others, since it was kept by 
all the people; and what is common to all, with that 
no one can specially distinguish himself There- 


fore they had to undertake many special fasts, that 
they might be seen, as much higher and more 
spiritual than common people; hence they also 
boast in the gospel against Christ: Why do the 
disciples of the Pharisees fast so often, and thy 
disciples do not fast? etc. Besides, they assumed 
distinguishing attitudes and marks by which it 
should be known when they were fasting; they 
disfigured their faces, so that they did not wash or 
anoint themselves, but looked sad and gloomy, and 
put on such a wonderful earnestness that men had 
to talk and sing about it, etc. 

Now comes Christ and demolishes this fasting, 
and teaches the direct contrary, and says: If you 
wish to fast, then fast in such a way that you do 
not have a sad countenance; but wash and anoint 
your face, so that you appear merry and cheerful, 
as on a holiday, so that no difference is noticeable 
between your fasting and keeping holiday. For it 
was customary among the Jews for them to sprinkle 
their bodies with aromatic water and anoint their 
heads, so that their whole person was fragrant when 
they were keeping a holiday or wanted to be 
cheerful. If you fast in this way, between your- 
self and your Father alone, then 5^ou have fasted 
rightly, so that it pleases him; but not as if it were 
forbidden on a fast day to wear poor clothes or go 
unwashed; but the notion is rejected that it is to 
be done for the sake of the reputation, and in order 


to make people open their eyes at your peculiar 
way of doing it. Indeed we often read of how they 
fasted, putting on sackcloth and casting ashes on 
their heads; as in the case of the king of Nineveh 
and the whole city. But that was another kind of 
fasting that their need and misery taught them. 

Now, we have copied from the Jews our great 
fasting season, and at first kept fourteen days; 
then we became holier, and stretched this out to 
four weeks, until at last it was drawn out to forty 
days; but, not content with that, we have set apart 
besides two days in every week throughout the 
year for fasting, the Friday and Saturday; finally 
the four golden or compulsory fasts; these were 
yet all common or general fasts: besides this, the 
advent season found some special saints who made 
a fast out of that, aside from what the monks in 
monasteries observed; and then every one selected 
some special saints in addition to the general fasts, 
until the result was that all of this was of no ac- 
count if each one did not make his own fast. 

Now such fasting as thig all taken together is 
not worth a penny. For the primitive fathers may 
indeed have meant it well and observed the fasts 
properly; but it soon was overdone and ruined by 
the filth, so that it was of no account. And it got 
what it deserved. For as this wonderful multipli- 
cation of fasts was mere human trifling, so it soon 
degenerated into shameful abuse. For I may lion- 


esth" say that I never saw a genuine fast in the 
papacy, in what they call fasting. For what kind 
of a fast is that for me, when they prepare a meal 
at noon of costly fish, excellently spiced, more and 
better than for two or three other meals, and the 
strongest drink besides, and spend an hour or three 
at it until they have filled their belly full? And 
that was a common thing and a trifle even among 
the very strictest monks. But the holy fathers, 
the bishops, abbots and other prelates got at it in 
earnest at once with ten and twenty courses, and 
at night took so much refreshment that several 
threshers could have fed for three days upon it. It 
may well be that some prisoners, or poor and sickly 
people, have had to fast through poverty; but I 
know of no one who fasted for the sake of devotion, 
and still less now. But now these, my dear papists, 
have all become good Lutherans, so that none of 
them thinks any more about fasting; but mean- 
while they let our poor pastors have hunger and 
trouble and hold a real daily fast in their stead. 

Since then this fasting has turned out to be a 
great deal worse than that of the Jews and Phari- 
sees, who did honestly and truly fast, only that 
they sought their own honor thereby; but ours 
under the name of fasting has become a mere feast- 
ing, and is no fast, but a mockery of God and of 
the people; besides having the disgraceful addition 
of making a distinction in the kinds of food, and 


forbidding the use of some, so that they call only 
that fasting if one abstains from the use of meat, 
but meanwhile have the best fish with excellent 
condiments and spices and the strongest wine; 
therefore I have advised, and do still advise, that we 
trample such fasting under our feet as an abomi- 
nable mockery of God; so that it vexes me that 
men should carry on and endure this blasphemy in 
Christendom, and deceive God with the mask of 
calling such a life of high living and belly-filling a 
fast and a good work. 

This is now a gross, shameless, disgraceful de- 
ception, which does not need the Scriptures for a 
rebuke, but every peasant, yes a child of seven 
years, can comprehend and understand. But they 
have also added the still more disgraceful abuse 
(which ruins even true fasting), that the}- sought 
thereby great merit before God, as thereby to atone 
for sin and propitiate God; so they impose this 
fasting as penance in absolution. That is really 
fasting in the nauie of all the devils, smiting Christ 
in the mouth and trampling him under foot: so 
that so far as abuse is concerned, if something bad 
must be done, I would sooner allow that one should 
guzzle to repletion; and I would rather see a gorged 
sow, if I have to look at filth, than such a saint who 
fasts most strictly on water and bread. 

The teaching and books of all the monks, the 
papal bulls, all the pulpits, are still full of this 


abomination, so that they know nothing of any 
other fasting when they are doing their very best. 
I will say nothing about their magnifying the 
gross, shameful, lying fasts of which we have 
spoken, and their thereby establishing and confirm- 
ing the worship of the saints; and no one has been 
found to say a word against these abuses. There- 
fore I still assert that all my life long I never saw 
in all the papacy a fast that was a truly Christian 
one; but only disgraceful fasting and feasting, in- 
stead of real fasting, and, along with that, sheer 
idolatry and hypocrisy, whereby God was insulted 
and the people deceived. Therefore let us learn 
here what it means to fast aright. 

There are two kinds of fasts that are good and 
commendable; one may be called a secular or civil 
fast, ordered by the government, as any other ordi- 
nance or command of the authorities, not demanded 
as a good work or a divine service. For that I 
would like to see, and would advise and help to 
bring it about, that the emperor or prince should 
issue the order that for one or two days in the week 
no meat should be eaten or sold, as a good useful 
ordinance for the country, so that everything 
should not be gobbled up, as is now done, until at 
last dear times miwt come and nothing is to be had. 
After that, I would be glad if at certain times, 
once a week, or as might be thought best, people 
did not have a meal in the evening, except a bit 


of bread and a drink, so that everything is not con- 
sumed with incessant gormandizing and swilling, 
as we Germans do, and that we should learn to live 
temperatel}-, especially the young, plump, strong 
people. But that should be an entirely secular 
matter, subject to the temporal authority. 

In addition to this there should be also a general 
spiritual fast, which we Christians should observe, 
and it would be a good arrangement to hold a gen- 
eral fast a few days before Easter, Whitsuntide and 
Christmas, and thus distribute the fasts through 
the year. But by all means not for the purpose of 
making an act of worship out of it, to merit some- 
thing by it, or to propitiate God; but as an external 
Christian discipline and exercise for the }oung and 
simple people, that they may learn to adapt them- 
selves to the times, and to make the needful distinc- 
tions throughout the year; as we have hitherto kept 
the four ember-weeks, that every one was guided 
by. For we must distinguish and mark off certain 
times for the rude common crowd, as fast and feast 
days, for preaching and commemorating the prin- 
cipal events of the life of Christ; in such a way 
that thereby no special divine service is aimed at, 
but only a memorial day, whereby one can divide 
up the whole year and tell what special time it is. 
So I would have no objection to people fasting on 
every Friday evening throughout the whole year, 
setting it apart as a day to be distinctly marked. 


But such fasting I neither can nor will inaugurate, 
unless it were beforehand harmoniously agreed 
upon. See, thus the Christian Church would have 
plenty of fasting to do, so that they could not 
blame us for despising and entirely refusing to 

But this is also still not the real Christian fast- 
ing that Christ has in view, which has special re- 
ference to each person in particular, and which, if 
it is to deserve the name of true Christian fasting, 
must be done thus, not merely by not eating in the 
evening, which is only a part of it, and the very 
least part; but it consists in your disciplining and 
restraining your body. This relates not only to 
eating, drinking, sleeping, etc., but also to being 
idle, indulging in sports, and everything that 
pleases and pampers the body. True fasting means 
quitting and refraining from all such things, and 
solely in order to curb and humiliate the flesh; as 
the Scriptures inculcate fasting, and call it ajfli- 
gere aniniani^ to mortify the body, etc., so that it 
renounce .voluptuousness, high living, pleasure. 
This was the fasting of the primitive fathers; they 
ate nothing the whole day, went about sorrowing, 
and denied the body everything, so far as nature 
would allow it. 

This fasting we now meet with rarely, especially 
among our spiritual monks and priests. For the 
Carthusians, who claim to lead the strictest lives. 

278 i,uther's commentary on the 

do not practice it, although they make some pre- 
tence of doing it, by wearing a dress of haircloth; 
but they gormandize, nevertheless, and cram their 
belly full of the best food and drink, and without 
any care live most luxuriously. No; it does not 
mean thus to quibble and deceive, but it demands 
the mortification of the body, and withholding 
from it all that pleases and gratifies it; and even if 
they did really fast aright, yet they would still 
make a devilish abuse of it by basing their holiness 
upon it and claiming to get something special from 
God by it, etc. Therefore, we are not to build 
anything upon it, although our fasting may be of 
the very best kind. For there may be a secret 
scoundrel lurking behind it, against faith or love; 
as also the prophet Isaiah, Iviii. 3, (as quoted 
above) rebukes the fasting, by which they morti- 
fied their bodies, but at the same time cheated and 
oppressed their debtors, etc. Thus Christ also 
rejected the fasting of the Pharisees ; not that they 
did not honestly fast, but because they sought 
thereby their own glory and honor, etc. 

Therefore, very much is needed to make fasting 
a truly good work, and pleasing to God. For he 
cannot at all endure it that you pay your court to 
him with your fasting as a great saint, and yet at 
the same time cherish hatred and wrath against 
your neighbor, etc. ; but if you want to fast prop- 
erly, bear in mind that you are first to be a pious 


man, and have both genuine faith and love. For 
this business has to do not with God or our neigh- 
bor, but with our own body, etc. But nobody- 
wants to do this. Therefore, I may well say, that 
I have never seen any real fasting. For there has 
been nothing but half and fragmentary fasting, and 
a miserable deception, when they, for appearance 
sake, break off a meal, but nevertheless daily tickle 
the body; except that now in the case of some 
pious preachers and pastors in the villages and 
elsewhere, who have to do it from necessity, and 
besides suffer reproach, ridicule and all manner of 
annoyance, and get from no one as much as a piece 
of bread. With these there is neither pleasure, nor 
show, nor easy times; these are they who wander 
in the world, whom no one knows, of whom the 
world is not worthy (as is said in the epistle to the 
Hebrews, xi. 38). But the Carthusian monks and 
our insurrectionary rabble in their robes of hair- 
cloth and their gray coats, at these we are to look 
with amazement, and say: O, what holy people are 
these! How hard it is for them to go about so 
shabbily clothed; and yet they are always guzzling 
and swilling their belly full. 

See, that I call the real fasting of Christians, if 
one mortifies the whole body and forces it, with all 
the five senses, to relinquish and do without every- 
thing that ministers to its ease, whether this be 
done willingly or by compulsion, (yet that one 


gladly assents to this and endnres it), whether one 
eats fish or flesh; bnt nothing more than sheer need 
reqnires, so that the body is not thereby injnred or 
incapacitated, but held under constraint and at 
work, so that it does not become idle, or lazy and 
lewd. But such fasting as this I do not presume to 
require, nor will I impose it upon any one. For 
every one must here look to himself, and judge his 
own feelings, for we are not all alike, so that one 
cannot set up a general rule; but every one, in pro- 
portion as he is strong, and feels what his own 
flesh requires, must in such proportion afiiict or re- 
lieve it. For the intention here is to antagonize 
lust and the excitement of the flesh, and not nature 
itself, and it is not limited by any rule or measure 
of time or place; but it is to be steadih' applied, if 
necessary, so that we hold the body in check, and 
habituate it to endure discomfort, if it become 
necessary to do it; and it is to be used according to 
the discretion of every one, so that no one may un- 
dertake to measure it off by rules, as the pope has 
done; just as we cannot measure off prayers, but 
let them be free, if any one's devotion suggests or 
demands them; nor can we apply it to the alms- 
giving, to whom, or when, or how much we are to 
give, as if forced by necessity and law. 

This is the extent of the general law for all Chris- 
tians, and it is commended that every one live tem- 
perately, soberly and discreetly, not for a day or a 


year, but daily and continually, which the Scrip- 
tures call sobrietatein^ living soberly; so that, al- 
though they cannot observe all the principal fasts, 
yet do this much that they are moderate m eating, 
drinking, sleeping, and in all the needs of the body, 
that it may minister to what is necessary and not to 
what is superfluous and capricious, and not live 
here as if we were only to cat and drink, to dance 
and be merry. If, however, sometimes through 
weakness we are guilty of some excess, that will 
have to be reckoned under the head of forgiveness 
of sins, as other daily failings. 

But first of all see to it that you are in advance 
pious and a true Christian, and are not thinking to 
render a service to God through this fasting; but 
serving God must be simply faith in Christ and 
love to your neighbor, so that you do just what is 
your duty. If this be not the case with you, then 
rather let the fasting alone. For fasting is meant 
only to be imposed upon the body to cut off out- 
wardly its lust and the occasions for lusting; just as 
faith does the same inwardly in the heart. Let 
this be enoug^h said about fasting;. 

Now we must look also at the words that Christ 
appends to all of these things, almsgiving, praying 
and fasting — that they are to be secret, then will 
our Father, who seeth in secret, reward us openly. 
For it is a necessary comforting assurance for 
Christians who do these works uprightly, since in 


the world their works are maligned and so covered 
up and concealed that no ungodly person can see 
them; and even if he sees them, yet with eyes open 
he does not acknowledge them. Thus, take our- 
selves for example, what good we do through the 
grace of God, that no one sees, and the whole world 
denounces us as those who pray, fast, and despise 
and forbid all good works, and occasion only mis- 
fortune and discord. But how we pray, both openly 
and secretly, that they are not to see, even if they 
hear it and are standing alongside, and would like 
to attack us publicly, as we are helj)ing to keep 
the peace and do good, etc. For God has so or- 
dained it, as the Scriptures say, that no ungodly 
person shall see the glory of God, that is, every- 
thing that God says and does; as also Isaiah says, 
vi. lo: Make the heart of this people fat, and make 
their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see 
with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and 
understand with their heart, and convert, etc. 

And so it is with us, both in our doctrine and 
life. For I suppose our gospel is not hidden, in 
itself, but so noised abroad that they all see and 
hear it; else they would not so furiously rage 
against it; yet they cannot see it, and it must be 
called among them not the gospel, but a damnable 
heresy. So also they do not see its fruits in us and 
our good works that we show towards them, as our 
enemies, and humble ourselves most completely 


before them, offer them peace and everything that 
is good, and besides faithfully pray for them: yet 
they are not worthy to recognize this, but must for 
this very reason so much the more horribly perse- 
cute us. Thus they also do not see our fasting, 
how our preachers willingly endure hunger and 
trouble, that they may serve the people, etc. But 
when they fast along with a good, fat collation, 
and three or four courses, that is a splendid feat 
and great holiness; just as our praying must be 
considered as nothing in contrast with their bab- 
bling and howling in the churches. 

See, thus, the entire Christian life must be and 
remain hidden, and cannot attain to any notoriety 
nor have any show and display before the world. 
Therefore be satisfied, and do not worry about it, 
though it be concealed, and indeed covered up and 
buried, so that no one sees or regards ifc, and be 
content that your Father up there in heaven sees 
it; he has sharp eyes and can see very far off, al- 
though it be covered by great, dark clouds, and 
buried deep in the earth; in such a way that the 
life of all Christians is intended alone for the e)'es 
of God. For that is at all events the outcome of it 
all; we may live as we will, and do as well as we 
can, yet we still cannot please the world, nor do 
what seems right to it or worthy of praise, and it 
does not really deserve to be helped and benefited. 

Therefore we must also aeain sfive it its walking- 


papers and send it home to the devil, and confi- 
dently defy it with such rhymes as: "Let the world 
go, it has a poor show," etc. It is enough that we 
are acting to please him who sees what we do; and 
we will neither do nor leave undone anything to 
please them, God helping us, whether they thank 
or abuse, are angry or laugh; we will not at any 
rate make it otherwise than it has always been. 
Why should we then strive after the honor or grati- 
tude that cannot be obtained? No, we will com- 
mend it to the scoundrels that wear rosaries about 
their necks, are bellowing day and night in the 
choir, are gormandizing on nothing but fish and 
stinking oil, etc., and are doing nothing but lost 
works; these shall gain the honor and glory from 
the world, as they deserve them both, and they be- 
long together, as cattle and a stable, with the devil 
behind. • For as the works are, so shall also the 
priests be, that one villain may praise another. 

That is one part of the consolation, that we 
know that the world is not worthy of us; but we 
have another One in heaven^ who beholds us and 
our works. The other part is, that he says: "Thy 
Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee 
openly;" that it will not only be seen, but also re- 
warded; and not in secret, 'but openly, that the 
whole world may see, along with its own perpetual 
disgrace. Therefore let him dispose of it; he will 
bring it to light, so that it is not kept in the dark, 


and [he will do it] on earth and in the presence of 
the people; as also the thirty-seventh Psalm com- 
fortably teaches: "Commit thy way nnto the Lord; 
trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass. 
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the 
light, and thy judgment as the noonday." See 
how the dear martyrs were so shamefully murdered, 
and yet they now so shine forth that all the world 
in contrast is a mere stench. So John Huss before 
our day was condemned, with unheard of brutality, 
and his name (as they supposed) was forever oblit- 
erated; yet now he shines forth with such honor 
that his cause and teaching must be praised before 
the whole world, and the matter of the pope lies in 
the dirt most ignominiously. 

Then let us now be shoveled under and stay 
hidden; the time will come when God will draw us 
forth, that our cause must shine before the eyes of 
all the world, even yet in this life, but still more 
gloriously at that day when some poor man will 
step forth with his fruits and good works, and put 
to shame the whole papacy and the world, so that 
his cause will be perfect light and clearness, but the 
other nothing but filth; only so that we cling to 
the word of Christ, and do not care or be worried 
about it that we are now befouled and thrown into 
the dark before the world: but look to him and do 
everything for his sake. For God's work and word 
cannot lag behind, but must come forth to the 

286 Luther's commentary on the 

light, howev^ deeply it is covered up and buried; 
so that I have often myself wondered, when I 
looked at the papacy, how the devil through the 
pope's abominations has thrown the dear gospel 
into a dung-pile and puddle, and covered it up so 
completely that I thought it would not be possible 
for the truth ever to come forth again amid such 
perversions of masses, purgatory and numberless 
other abominations: yet it had to come forth, just 
when it lay the deepest, and they were thinking 
that they had settled the matter for ever. 

The same thing happened to Christ himself; 
when they had put him under ground and supposed 
they had covered him up so deeply that nobody 
would ever mention him again, then he blazes 
forth and shines by his word so brightly that they 
all had to go under for ever. Therefore we ought 
also to feel safe, for we have his word, so that our 
doctrine and works must come to the light and be 
praised before the eyes of all the world; although 
now they are concealed; unless God himself must 
stay in the dark. See, this is the comforting as- 
surance, given to us as an admonition, that we are 
to exercise ourselves in really good works, and not 
worry ourselves because they are not observed by 
the world, for it is too blind; and just as little as it 
recognizes God, just so little does it recognize his 
word and works; and it will never come to see how 
grand a thing it is to be a baptized child, or a 


Christian who receives the Lord's Supper and 
gladly hears the word of God; but has to look at it 
as a mere water-bath, or a bit of bread, and a use- 
less talk. So also it does not see what he is doing 
who rightly fasts or prays. Therefore we commend 
it to him who can see it, and hope that he will put 
to shame the blind, crazy saints, with their pomp- 
ous, hypocritical display by which they are now 
darkening the life and works of Christians. 

V. 19-21 : '''■Lay not tip for yourselves treasures upon earth, 
where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break 
through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in hea- 
ven, luhcre thieves do not break through nor steal : for where 
your treasure is, there zvill your heart be also.'^ 

He has been thus far rebuking their false inter- 
pretations of the ten commandments, and purifying 
and cleansing the befouled and obscured doctrine ; 
then he taught the nature of real good works in 
contrast with their false, pretended good works; in 
such a way that we may rightly understand the ten 
commandments and do really good deeds. Now he 
begins to warn against the temptations that beset 
this doctrine, and continues in this strain almost 
until the eighth chapter, and means to set forth the 
whole matter most admirably, as a skilled master, 
who omits nothing that may serve to keep us in the 
true doctrine and life. 

First of all he takes up the beautiful, great vice 
that is called avarice. For these are about the two 


worst plagues that always make their appearance, 
if we preach tlie gospel and try to live accordingly; 
first, false preachers, who corrupt the doctriue; then 
squire avarice, who hinders right living; as we see 
now, since the gospel is preached again, that the 
people have become much more avaricious than 
before, they rake and scrape together as if they 
were almost dying from hunger; they formerly 
groped in blindness, as if stupefied, listened to the 
preaching of irresponsible dreamers, and gave by 
the score what was demanded, so that they neither 
saw nor knew what was being taken from them ; 
but now, since their eyes are opened, that they 
know how they ought to live and perform really 
good w^orks, they watch their pennies so closely, 
and are as avaricious, as if each one would like to 
monopolize the treasures of the world: so that I 
cannot otherwise explain it, or tell whence it 
comes, except that it must be a temptation from 
the very devil himself, who always interjects this 
abominable vice along with the light of the gospel, 
to hinder it. For the gospel gives us the consola- 
tion that we not only are there to live forever, but 
are also here to have enough to eat, as we read in 
the eighth Psalm: that Christ is to be a King and 
Ivord over all the world, and have in his hand all 
sheep and oxen, and all the beasts upon earth, so 
that he will not let us die of hunger. Now, this we 
know; and yet we ourselves are much more deeply 


immersed in avarice and care for daily food than 
before, and are all the time short of fnnds and out 
of pocket, and cannot give for the glory of God the 
tenth part of what we used to cram down the thiont 
of the devil. 

Christ taught the same thing in many other 
places, and announced it beforehand. As, when 
he sent out his apostles to preach, his chief care 
and admonition were that they should beware of 
these two things, false teaching and avarice; and 
he strictly charged them that they should take no 
provision with them on the way, nor be concerned 
about what the}^ should eat and drink, so that (as 
above said) the two most injurious things in Chris- 
tendom, by which it is greatly perverted, are: 
spiritually, the faith by false doctrine, bodily, the 
fruits by avarice. Therefore there is need here of 
preaching and warning, when we have decided 
upon doctrine and life, that we take due care to 
adhere to it and not be diverted from it by false in- 
terpretations of Scripture; and then to beware of 
avarice that it do not secretly ensnare and get pos- 
session of us, so that we do not aim only at tem- 
poral things, to have enough here, as if that were 

For it is a dangerous, insinuating vice, and can 

put on an attractive appearance and start beautiful 

thoughts, so that it even deceives Christians, and 

no one can be sure of being safe acrainst it. For 



when tliey see how ill it goes with them in the 
world, that is ever imposing npon them, and be- 
grndging" them even a bit of bread, so that they for 
its sake mnst nearly die of hunger; how the poor 
preachers are now left to endure trouble and want; 
they are so tempted that they consider how they 
may get and accumulate something, so that they 
may stay in the world, until at last they actually 
become involved in worldly care and avarice, and 
through this let their ministerial office fall and lie, 
and some even let go the gospel altogether. 

See, for this reason Christ now begins with 
many words to preach against the great idol mam- 
mon, and paints it in the most detestable colors, so 
that one should by all means be on his guard 
against it ; and he sa}'S, in the first place : Lay 
not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where 
moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves 
break through, etc. Here he gives to the treas- 
ures upon earth three burrowers, rust, moths and 
thieves ; these are scandalous watchmen when 
they are set over treasures. Now God has wisely 
ordained that where a treasure is there must such 
fellows be that watch it; just as commonly the 
sparrows or rats and mice with the corn. For it is 
not worth anything better, since we do not rightly 
use money and propert\-, but through sheer avarice 
scrape it together for ourselves, and no one gives 
or orrants it to another. 


But this means not only the moths and rnst that 
devour clothes or iron and brass; nor mice and 
rats, that can be caught in traps; also, not the 
mere thieves that secretly empty the cofters, but 
also the great living moths and public thieves, as 
the great corrupters and profligates at court, that 
can empty bins and purse for a prince, and at last 
strip him of all that he has; so also in cities, not 
onl}' those who creep into a citizen's house, but 
who with cunning secrecy suck out the city's re- 
sources by usury and extortion in the market and 
wherever they can ; so that, in short, wherever 
there is money and property there must also moths 
and thieves be, eager for it; and everything in 
the world is full of these rats and mice, wherever 
people live together. For what else than such a 
rust or moth is an unfaithful counsellor at court, 
or an officer who does nothing- but nibble away at 
a prince's money or property as long as it lasts? 
As there are now many of these hypocrites, who 
with daily, heavy, unnecessary and useless ex- 
penses make the princes poor, and who do not care 
whether a prince is prospering or going to ruin, if 
they can only be masters of his money and man- 
age things as they please. Thus also, in all towns 
and villages we find everything full of rats and 
moths, both great and small, secret and public, as 
shoemakers, cobblers, tailors, butchers, bakers, 
brewers and saloon-keepers, and other trades, 


workmen and day-laborers. Yes, in every house, 
he who has a hizy, unfaithful servant or maid, 
what else has he than a weevil, that devours more 
for him than if he had his floor full of rats and 
mice? Now see what a fine god inammou is, who 
has no better protectors and courtiers about him 
than mere moths and rust, so that if one has been 
gathering 'treasures for a long while, yet there must 
be so much devouring by this kind of hangers-on 
that no one who ought to enjoy it is glad or takes 
pleasure in it ; and not many treasures of great 
men and princes have ever been well invested, but 
they have generally been wasted through wars, or 
devoured by these miserable cankers, or other- 
wise uselessly squandered or destroyed. Therefore, 
those are best off who have not many treasures, 
for they have not many rats to feed, and need not 
be afraid of thieves. 

How, then, are we to have no treasures at all, 
and are all hereby condemned who gather treasures 
upon earth ? Surely that cannot be the case. For, 
if everybody would do as you and I do, to-morrow 
nobody would have anything in house and home. 
The lords and princes must acquire and have pro- 
vision for land and people. For to this end God 
has created gold and silver and given them mines. 
Thus we read in the Scriptures that Moses taught 
the king that he should not have too many horses, 
too much gold and silver, etc. Thereby he ad- 


mils that he may gather treasures moderately ; as 
also King Solomon himself boasts [that he has 
gathered treasures], and the patriarch Joseph gath- 
ered so much that he made all Egypt the king's 
own, with its corn, money, property, cattle, and 
the very bodies of the people besides, as complete 
vassals ; thus Abraham, too, had many sheep and 
much gold and silver with which he traded. What 
shall we say to it then, that he here so clearly for- 
bids us to gather treasures? since he himself (if we 
wanted to reckon with him) had a fund, because 
Judas held the bag, and yet there was always a 
balance on hand, so that they never wanted for 
anything when he sent forth the disciples, as they 
themselves said. Why, then, does he here forbid 
this, and say that they shall take no money, nor 
scrip, nor shoes with them ? 

Answer: It has been said above, often enough, 
that Christ in this sermon teaches a single person 
or a Christian man ; and that a man of the world 
and a Christian are to be kept quite distinct. For 
a Christian does not mean a male or female, young 
or old person, lord, servant, emperor, prince, 
farmer, citizen, nor anything that is part of the 
world and may be known by a worldly designation; 
he has no person or mask, and should neither 
have nor know anything in the world, but be satis- 
fied with his treasure in heaven. He who does not 
properly make this distinction cannot rightly un- 


derstaiid these sayings; as our sophists and fanatics, 
who mix and confound these things together. 

A prince may very well be a Christian, but as a 
Christian he is not to rule; and in so far as he rules 
he is called not a Christian, but a prince. The 
person is a Christian, but the office or princeship 
has nothing to do with his Christianity. For, so 
far as he is a Christian, the gospel teaches him that 
he is to injure no one, not to punish or take re- 
venge, but to forgive everybody, and to endure 
whatever injury or injustice is done to him. That 
is (I say) the lesson of a Christian. But that would 
not constitute a good government, if you would 
preach in that way to the prince; but he must 
speak thus: My Christianity is something between 
God and myself, that has its own rules, how I am 
to live with reference to him; but besides this I 
have in the world another office or rank, that I am 
a prince. This person does not stand related to 
God, but the relation is between me and my land 
and people, etc. In this respect the question is 
not how you are to live towards God, and what you 
are to do and suffer for yourself; let that be for 
your persQU as a Christian, that has nothing to do 
with land and people. But your princely person 
must do none of these things or have anything to 
do with them; but think how it may manage the 
government, keep and protect justice and peace, 
punish the wicked. 


See, in this way both ranks or offices are rightly 
divided, and yet in one person, and so to speak 
are contradictory, so that one person shall at 
the same time suffer everything, and not suffer ; 
but in such a way that to each office its own ap- 
propriate experience is applied: namely, as said 
above: If it affects me as a Christian, then I am to 
endure it; but if it affects me as a secular person, 
which is not between God and me, but bound to 
land and people, (whom I am commanded to help 
and protect, and the sword is placed in my hand 
for this purpose,) then it is not suffering that is 
called for, but the opposite. So every nian upon 
earth has two persons: one for himself, bound to 
no one, but to God alone; aside from that, a secu- 
lar one, with which he is bound to others; as we 
must be mixed together in this life, as a husband 
or householder with wife and child; who, although 
he is a Christian, must nevertheless not suffer it 
from those related to him that they practice knav- 
ery or reckless behavior in the house, but he must 
resist and punish wrong-doing, so that they must 
conduct themselves properly, etc. If you rightly 
apprehend this difference, then it is easy to under- 
stand the teaching of Christ. For he is speaking 
here, and in all his sermons, not about how a sec- 
ular person is to do and live; but how you are to 
live uprightly towards God as a Christian, who has 
not to concern himself about the world, but only 
about the life to come. 

296 luthp:r's commentary on the 

Thus I say also in regard to this text : My per- 
son, that is called a Christian, is not to care for or 
lay up money ; but I am to be heartily devoted to 
God only. Bnt externally I may and am to use 
temporal good for my body, and, as to other people, 
so far as relates to my secular person, I may gather 
money and treasures ; yet not too much, so that I 
do not make an avaricious belly out of myself, 
that cares only for itself, and can never be filled. 
For a secular person must have money, corn and 
provision for his land, people, or others that belong 
to him. Thus, if one could rule in such a way as 
the patriarch Joseph in Egypt, so that all the 
storehouses and vessels should be full of food, and 
could manage the country in such a way that all its 
need would be provided for, from which provision 
one could help the people, advance to them and 
distribute among them, if necessary ; that would 
be an excellent treasure and an admirable and 
Christian use of worldly goods. For what a prince 
gathers, he gathers not for himself, but as a person 
belonging to all, yes, as a common father of the 
whole land. For we must not all be beggars, but 
every one provide so much for himself, that he can 
maintain himself and not impose upon others, and, 
besides, he should help others, and thus one should 
contribute to others when it is necessary. 

Thus every city should lay up as much as it can 
for the common need; yes, every parish should 


have a common treasury for the poor. That 
would not be unfair, but should be called laying 
up Christian treasures. For it is not such a treas- 
ure as ministers to avarice and lust ; as the world 
does, and as our priests hitherto have gathered 
money, and with no other purpose than to find 
their pleasure with it, and to play with the florins 
like the little girls with their dolls. But when 
necessity calls for it, when others are to be helped, 
then there's nobody at home. These are the 
devil's treasures, against which Christ is here 
speaking, that we are not to lay up treasures upon 
earth, that is for one's self and for his own pleasure; 
in such a way that the heart does not become 
avaricious, and cling to the temporal mammon, but 
seek for and lay up another treasure in heaven. 
But outwardly and secularly you may lay up as 
much as you can with God and honorably ; not for 
your own satisfaction and avariciousness, but for 
the need of other people. He who thus accumu- 
lates shall have blessing and indulgence besides, 
as a pious Christian. 

But those who are thus avariciously scraping to- 
gether, so that they cannot cease, and yet do not 
let any one enjoy it, so that they dare not them- 
selves make a cheerful use of it, with them it shall 
happen, as is here said, that moth and rust and 
thieves shall consume, so that as it came so shall it 
go; although it also often happens, on the other 


hand, that eveu where things have been properly 
gathered, they are nevertheless consumed in this 
way. For no better treatment can be expected on 
earth for temporal good at any rate. If this now 
happens to^those who lay up treasures rightly, how 
much rather to those who seek nothing else than 
the money, not the use, advantage and fruit of the 
money. For it is here so denounced that moth and 
rust must attack it and consume it, and it be stolen, 
so that no one can succeed who thus avariciously 
rakes and scrapes together; and although a farmer 
has gathered a great deal, he still must not use it, 
that does not become him, but he must bury it, so 
that it does not benefit him or any one else, other- 
wise the worms gnaw and bite at it, or it falls to 
the share of the public servants or scoundrels at 
court, so that it may not be better spent. 

Thus now Christ is trying with these words to 
reason us out of the idea of thus avariciously grasp- 
ing after mammon, and he speaks about it so con- 
temptuousl-y that he could not make it more odious 
to us. For what sort of a god is that, who cannot 
do so much as to defend himself against moth and 
rust, but must let himself be daily gnawed at and 
consumed, and lie there to be plundered by every- 
body, so that everything that comes along feasts 
upon him, and every thief steals him, etc. That is 
vexatious, to have such a helpless god, subject to 
moth, rust and thieves, who yet rules the whole 


world. Therefore we ought to be ashamed of our- 
selves, that we are such people as to be cliuging to 
such a moth-eateu treasure aud placing all our con- 
fidence upon it. Since }ou know this, (he means 
to say), do not set your heart upon it, so that you 
lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth; but be 
satisfied with what God here gives you, and hold it 
liable to be lost or taken from you. For that is all 
that can be expected; especially if you wish to be a 
Christian, and confess or preach your Lord, you 
must be always expecting to be snapped at and cast 
out, as one that has challenged the world and all 
the devils. If you are to be really consistent, you 
must be courageous enough to despise all their 
treasures and goods, and be assured of another, bet- 
ter treasure. 

Therefore he says : Lay up for yourselves treas- 
ures in heaven, that is, let the world have its 
moth-eaten treasures, liable to be robbed and 
stolen, that are of no more value than that the 
world may take pleasure and comfort in them. 
But you that are not of the world, but belong to 
heaven, and are purchased for heaven by my blood, 
so that you may have another eternal treasure that 
is prepared and appointed for you, do not let your 
heart here be entrapped: but, if your office and 
worldly calling are such that you must have to do 
with earthly treasure, do not cling to it or serve it. 
But let it be your aim to gain those treasures that 


are laid up for you in heaven. For those are true 
treasures that neither moth nor rust can reach, and 
they are altogether safe against everything that 
can devour or steal. For they are so deposited 
that they always remain whole and ready, and are 
so guarded that no one can break through after 

Let him now who wants to be a Christian apply 
this stimulus and this logic to himself. For it 
ought to please an avaricious fellow, and make his 
heart laugh, when one shows him such a treasure 
that no rust can corrupt and no thief steal. But 
the world is said not to regard this, because it nei- 
ther sees it nor feels after it, but continues clinging 
to the gold and silver that it sees glittering, 
although it knows and sees that it is not secure 
for an hour against rust and thieves. But we are 
not preaching to these. He who will not adhere 
to Christ, and shape his course with reference to 
the invisible treasure, let him go his way; we will 
not drag any hither by main force. But take 
notice, if your time comes that yon must go hence, 
then call upon your treasure that you have laid up, 
and upon which you have relied for consolation, 
and see what you have in it, and what it can help 

But it happens, as is written in the seventy-sixth 
Psalm (v. 5): Dormiermit sommun simm omnes 
viri divitiarum^ et nihil invenertmt in manibus 


SHIS — the full-bellied rich that served mammon,, 
when they were to die, found nothing at all. That 
is indeed a terrible thing, that those who have 
served mammon their whole life long, and have 
done injustice and wrong unto many for its sake, 
and have despised the word of God, yet in the time 
of need could not have a hair-breadth of enjoyment. 
Then for the first time their eyes are opened so 
that they look into another world, and go groping 
about for what they have gathered as a provision, 
yet they find nothing, and are left to pass away 
empty in disgrace ; then they become so anxious 
and afraid that they in consequence forget what 
they have laid up, and they find nothing also in 
heaven ; and there happens to them just what 
Christ says, in Luke xii. 19, about the rich man who 
once had a grand good harvest, so that he meant to 
pull down his barns and build greater, and thought 
to have a good time, and said: "Soul, thou hast 
much goods laid up for many years; take thine 
ease, eat, drink and be merry." Notice, that is the 
little song of the farmers, that all greedy bellies 
sing; but what follows? "Thou fool, this night 
thy soul shall be required of thee: and whose shall 
those things be, which thou hast provided ?" So 
he both loses this treasure [his soul], and must be 
robbed of his gathered goods, and so disgracefully 
that he knows not who shall get them. 

For this is the way of the world, since one rarely 


sees great treasures divinely gathered, so that they 
dare not spend them as they would like to do, or 
have them benefit some one, but they must be scat- 
tered in such a way that no one knows what has 
become of them; as I have already often observed, 
especially in the case of great, rich, ignorant priests, 
who have left large possessions, that, however, soon 
disappeared after their death, or fell to the share of 
those who gave them no thanks for them, but reck- 
lessly squandered and shamefully destroyed them. 
And especially if a war occurs, then the devil has 
it all his own way, so that they fall into the hands 
of the fire-eaters, for whom they never were in- 
tended, and who besides pile upon the people for 
them all sorts of misery. 

Therefore, if some one has long been laying up, 
and any one asks him who is to get it, he has to 
say that he does not know; and it usually does not 
turn out as he expected. Therefore he is a great 
fool, that he risks all his comfort and well-being 
upon it, and plagues himself with great care and 
anxiety all his life long, and yet does not know for 
whom he has gathered it; yet nobody considers 
this. For man's blindness and wickedness are too 
great, and the world will still be the world, and 
have the bother, that it may serve the moth-eaten 
treasure; and if it has long served, and has angered 
God, then it must have as its reward that God at 
last cannot help it, and lets it have the disappoint- 


ment coupled with insult and injury. That it can- 
not prevent, as little as fire can be prevented from 
burniug, or water from extinguishing. Therefore 
let them only go their way, and l<;now that you are 
taught, as a Christian, to think where you ought to 
have and find yonr treasure, where it is safe for 
you, and always abides, and cannot be displaced 
or become another's; and meanwhile use this 
world's goods and make the best of it, as a passing 
possession. And if you thus gather treasures with 
God and with honor, then he will also see to it that 
it remains, if it ought to remain, so that it is nev- 
ertheless not lost, but well used, and that much 
good is done with it. 

Christ now ends this with a proverb, and says: 
Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. 
That is as much as saying what we Germans say 
of a greedy belly: Money is his heart; that is, if he 
only has money, that is his joy and comfort, in 
short, his God. Again, if he has nothing, that is 
his death; there there is no heart, no joy, no com- 
fort. Therefore he means to say : Beware, and test 
3-our own heart, and know assuredly that your 
heart will be where your treasure is; as we are else 
wont to say, what is dear to a man, that is his God. 
For his heart draws him' thitherward, is occupied 
about it day and night; he sleeps and wakes with 
it, whether it be money and property, pleasure or 
honor, etc. Therefore observe your own heart, 

304 lutiip:r's commentary on thk 

and you will soon find what is sticking in it, and 
where your treasure is. For this may readily be 
felt, if you have as great a pleasure and diligence 
in hearing the word of God and living accordingly, 
and in securing that life, as you have in gathering 
and storing away money and property. 

For, if my heart be so disposed (and also proves 
itself such, where it can be proved) that I would 
rather lose not only money and property, but also 
my neck, rather than to forsake or despise the gos- 
pel, and to do wrong or violence to my neighbor 
for my own benefit, I can conclude that money 
and propert}' are not my heart's treasure, although 
I am also gathering and saving ; but having freely 
exposed them to danger and hazard, I am striving 
for another treasure, in heaven, namely, that hid- 
den in the word of God. x^gain, however, if it be 
the case with you that you let others preach and 
teach and exhort as they will, and you go along, 
thinking that you have enough, and live in style ; 
never ask whether you are doing right or wrong by 
your neighbor, if you only have your own, and 
make your calculation so that with one penny you 
mav gather two, yes ten, and have no concern about 
God's word and preachers, and about the world 
with its laws, then you can also understand that 
your treasure is not above in heaven, but remains 
with the moth and rust; so completely, that you 
would rather anger God and the world before you 


would lose a penny, and o^ive up anything for its 
sake: as now peasants, citizens, noblemen every- 
where shamelessly talk and live, who for the sake 
of a penny -venture to dare defy the government 
of God in the Church and in the world, so that 
this saying may remain true and practically con- 
vict them, since they will not hear nor be in- 
structed. For it cannot be otherwise, even if we 
worry long about it and would gladly see it other- 
wise. Therefore it is best, if we have told it to 
them, that we let them go their way, and despise 
and laugh at them as much as they do at us. For 
God says in the second Psalm that he can laugh 
too, and laugh so that they will have bitter weep- 
ing ; that means that he will speak with tliem in 
his wrath and will alarm them in his sore displeas- 

V. 22, 23. "77^1? light of the body is the eye: if, therefore, 
thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But 
if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If 
therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, hozv great is that 

That is a warning, that we must not allow our- 
selves to be deceived by the beautiful color and ap- 
pearance with which avarice can adorn itself and 
conceal the villain. For, as I have, said, there is 
no vice among all the natural vices that more read- 
ily deceives people and does greater harm both to 
the gospel and to its fruits. For it hinders wher- 

3o6 LUTHER'S co]m:\ientary on the 

ever it can the preaching of the gospel and its being 
kept among the people; and althongh the gospel 
be preached, the preachers who have fallen nnder 
the power of avarice are of no acconnt, so that both 
are thereby injured, the people who are to hear it, 
and those who ought to preach it; so that those 
who indeed have it will not support the preachers, 
and let them die for hunger, so far as they are con- 
cerned; and as the preachers see this, they take 
special pains not to live at the mercy of the people. 
These are then more dangerous enemies than the 
others. For, although a peasant becomes avari- 
cious, and gives nothing to support the gospel, a 
preacher can still be provided for; although his 
support is very meagre. But when the preachers 
themselves become involved in it, the gospel is no 
longer to their taste, so that they should suffer or 
venture anything for its sake; but they will lay 
their plans accordingly, so that their belly does 
not lack, and they will preach what will please the 
people and bring the money. 

Therefore St. Paul calls this a peculiar vice, a 
worship of idols or idolatry, that is in direct oppo- 
sition to the faith, which is the true worship or 
honoring of God. For it makes mammon and the 
impotent penny' its God and Lord; what it wills, 
that he does; thus he lives and preaches, and is 
completely owned and captured by it, so that he 
no longer asks after the word of God and does not 
hazard a penny on its account. 


Now Christ can do nothing more against all this 
than to rebuke this vice and warn those against it 
who are willing to be warned ; and this is indeed 
necessary. For even the pious can hardly pre.vent 
their being deceived by it. But others move along 
serenely, as though completely swallowed up by 
it, notwithstanding what we preach and declare. 
The Jews, too, were such a set, immersed in their 
avarice, so he had to be all the time rebuking 
them; and all the prophets, when they were hold- 
ing forth about the faith, were perpetually rebuk- 
ing and denouncing avarice, against their preach- 
ers and false prophets as well as against the mass 
of the people. But it was of no avail, except in 
•the case of a few who would be thereby influenced, 
for whose sake Christ and we all must still preach, 
and let the others go their way, since they will be 
of the devil's party. 

Now Ch-rist used this saying more than once as 
a common saying, not only in reference to avarice, 
but also in reference to other matters, especially as 
to doctrine. For in matters of doctrine it occurs 
that the factious spirits and lying preachers pre- 
tend that they are heartily and truly in earnest, 
and seek the honor of God and the salvation of 
souls, so that no one boasts and asseverates as vig- 
orously as they do. To these he utters the warn- 
ing : Beware, that your eye be single and not evil ^ 
that is, that your way of thinking and your boast- 


ing- is right, and not secretly evil, and that you 
are not deceiving yourselves with false notions and 

For it io commonly these people that the devil 
bewitches, and just as when a man lies in a dream 
or sleep, and is so completely stupefied that he can- 
not see that he is dreaming ; but he does not think 
or know anything else than that it is really hap- 
pening so, and he is so sure of it that he could not 
feel anything more sure; and yet it is nothing else 
than a dream, which soon vanishes, and when he 
awakens it is all gone; and although it seems to 
him sometimes that it is a dream, or that he is 
dreaming of a dream, yet he is ensnared, so that 
he cannot extricate himself, or become master of 
his senses. So those people are also ensnared, who 
insist so confidently upon it that their cause is the 
pure truth, so that they may swear everything 
upon it, and yet it is all nothing but dreams and 
the thoughts of crack-braine'd people. Therefore it 
is a dangerous thing if one does not cling closely 
and simply to God's word, and allows himself to be 
led away from it to the thoughts of men that have 
an excellent appearance and soon captivate, so that 
he who falls within their influence cannot after- 
wards extricate himself from it. For he does not 
know anything else but that it is the real word of 
God, and he adheres so firmly to it that lie cannot 
be persuaded to abate a jot or tittle of it; as we see 
that some have lost their necks for it. 


But this is not the place to develop this thought. 
For here he applies the saying to the common vice 
of avarice, which, although it is gross and ex- 
ternal, yet there is no vice in reference to doc- 
trine that can so adorn itself and wear so beautiful 
a covering, so that it must not be called avarice, 
but be seen and praised, as though one were 
heartily opposed to the vice, and no one were so 
mild, kind and merciful; and j^et he does not 
himself see that his heart deceives him, and 
that he is altogether immersed in avarice. We 
must therefore examine the text a little farther, 
and exhibit it plainly in illtistrations, although it 
is not possible to comprehend in how many ways 
the evil eye can contort and help itself; [we do 
this] in order that one may learn to be on his 
guard against such influences. For this is also a 
common temptation among Christians, so that no 
one believes that so few people are free from it; for 
the heathen and others are guilty of it in its gross- 
est forms, so that one can easily recognize it. 

Christ's now saying: "The eye is the light of the 
body," is a reference to the natural body. If it had 
no eye, no sun would be of any use, although it 
might shine a hundred times so brightly. There- 
fore the body has no other light that may lead and 
direct it, than the eye ; because one can see with 
it, we need not be afraid that he will drive along- 
side of the bridge into the Elbe, or go through 

3IO Luther's commentary on the 

hedges and bushes, or rush into the fire or among 
the spears; for the light guards him against danger 
and harm. But he who has no eye must go for- 
ward, and stumbles over wood and stones until he 
falls and breaks his neck or is drowned in the 
water; for there is no light there, but total dark- 

So (he means to say) it is in the matter of Chris- 
tianity, especially with avarice. Here take care 
that your spiritual body has an eye, that is, an up- 
right, good intention and understanding, that you 
may know how you believe and live, and do not 
deceive yourself with false notions aud darkness. 
Thus, for example, if you thus reason: "I will work 
and do something, that I may gain somethiug and 
maintain myself with wife and child, with God 
aud honor; and if God grants that I may also there- 
by serve and help my neighbor, that I will gladly 
do;" see, that is the light or the spiritual eye, from 
the word of God, that shows you what belongs to 
your calling, and indicates to you how you are to 
fill it and live in it. For this is right, and has 
to be, since the body lives here, so that every one 
may do something that he may support himself 
and keep house. 

But now beware that this eye does not become 
evil and deceive you; that you do this with a sim- 
ple intention, and have only this purpose, to work 
and do what your calling requires to meet tlie 


necessities of yourself and your neighbor, and not 
under this pretence to seek something else, namely 
how you may thereby gratify you avarice. For 
flesh and blood is a master in misusing this light 
and employing it as a pretence. So, if it now 
happens that you have procured some means of 
living that you are fond of, and are only concerned 
how you can keep it and increase it, and, if you 
•have a gulden, would like to have ten more: see, 
here the evil eye comes creeping in, that looks not 
only at the means of living and the necessary pos- 
session, but also at its avarice, and can still adorn 
itself [with the pretence] that it is not seeking 
avarice, but is doing what God has ordered it to 
do, and is accepting what God gives. 

Well, here no one can look into your heart and 
judge you; but beware yourself that your eye is 
not evil. For it happens very easily, and there is 
a strong inclination to it, especially when one sees 
how profitable it is; love is thirsty and is never 
satiated, and nature besides is strongly disposed 
that way: so whores and scoundrels come together, 
and things go as they ought to, as we say: Occasio 
facit furem, money makes villains. Therefore 
Christ warns his own so diligently. For the world 
is a great whore-house, and quite merged in this 
vice: and we ourselves must live in it, and these 
examples and incitements tempt us, so that we £,re 
in great danger and have to be well upon our guard 
that we do not let the devil ride us. 


If now your eye is siiigle, (says Christ), your 
whole body is light; that is, all that you are doing 
and living in }our outward deportment, in accord- 
ance with your office and calling, that is all upright, 
moving in accordance with God's word, with the 
proper intention, so that it shines like the sun, be- 
fore God and man, and it stands well before all the 
world; and all that you do is excellent, and you 
can use worldly good with a good conscience, as 
liaving been honestly and divinely acquired, etc. 
Again, if your eye is evil, so that you do not act in 
these things as required by God and your office, but 
leave the track and are concerned only to gratify 
your lust and love for money; then your whole 
body is dark, and everything that you do is con- 
demned by God and lost, although you are called a 
pious man before the world. For the body lets 
itself be led with its whole external movement and 
life as a blind person, and cannot go or live other- 
wise than as the eye directs. 

Thus he means to warn us and charge every one 
conscientiously to see to it how his mind and heart 
are disposed, so that he do not flatter himself with 
the beautiful and 3'et false idea that he has a good, 
honest reason, and a real good right to rake and 
scrape together in this way, and impose upon God, 
so that he does not observe the scoundrel; as 
though he said: You may adorn yourself as you 
will; but if you deceive God, then you have de- 


ceived a wise, shrewd, and besides an experienced 
man. But take care that you are not deceiving 
yourself, and that your light does not become an 
evil eye that makes your whole life dark and abom- 
inable in the sight of God; for he has a clear, sharp 
sight, and will not allow himself to be deceived by 
your extra coat of paint. And he concludes this 
warning with a threat, to alarm, so that we may 
not so readily make use of that plausible, invented 
notion, and says: But if the light that is in thee be 
darkness, how great is that darkness ! That is, al- 
though you ma}' invent such plausible ideas, as that 
you do not mean to accumulate through avarice, as 
the others, but. intend to do it in such a way .that 
}-ou can defend it before God and the world, so that 
it must not be called avarice, and yet you live just 
the same, and make thus for yourself a light of 
your own in your heart; but see to it just here that 
this light is not also darkness, not alone that it is 
sheer avarice in your heart, but also that you mean 
to conceal it as with the light, so that it is not to 
be called avarice, and thus there is a double dark- 
ness, much greater than before. 

Just as that was a great darkness under the 
papacy that completely extinguished the light of 
Christian doctrine, so that they taught nothing 
else than to take away sin and be saved by works, 
etc. But when they besides at once defended this 
and boasted of it that it was the true divine doc- 

314 luthhr's commentary on the 

trine, and that he who denied this was a heretic, 
and was forbidding the worship of God and all 
good works, etc., then there was the blackness of 
darkness, so that lliey adorned this darkness and 
error with the name of truth, and thus made the 
darkness greater by the superadded light; just as 
if one knows the devil, that it is the devil, and 
makes a god of him. That means to cover dark- 
ness with darkness and yet claim that it is bright 
and luminous, yes, the very sun itself. 

Thus Christ now concludes : If the opinion and 
doctrine that one regards as light is itself darkness, 
how great must the other darkness be which this 
brino;s with it; namely, that one practices this 
doctrine, and lives accordingly. Thus here, he 
whom avarice has mastered, so that he rakes and 
scrapes, he has already a darkness in his heart. 
But if he goes on, and flatters himself that it is not 
to be called avarice, and silences his conscience, 
so as not to be rebuked, that is now a real, thick, 
double darkness. Just as a fool, who claims to be 
sensible and not chargeable with folly, is properly 
called a great, big fool; or an ugly strumpet, who 
claims to be pretty and adorns herself with her 
nasty trumpery; that is only making things blacker 
and worse; and in fact all men are so disposed, 
that no one wants to have his sin rebuked; but all 
try to cover their tracks, so as to get approbation 
and praise, and thus out of one bad sin they make 


Now when this happens in spiritual aflfairs, then 
the great murderous harm is done. For those in 
this calling cannot easily do things moderately, 
but, when it comes to dealing with the gospel, 
they are apt to overdo it with their charities. 
Again, if they apostatize from the gospel, then 
there is no end to their avarice; as it used to be » 
hitherto: when they began to give, it fairly snowed 
with gifts, to churches, public worship and eccle- 
siastical establishments; as in old times the empe- 
rors and princes with good intentions gave whole 
districts of country for such purposes, and endowed 
such institutions; but now again hardly anybody 
gives a penny, and they are avariciously gobbling 
up everything, as if they were afraid of dying with 

This is the way the monks, priests and prebend- 
aries used to do, whom no one could satisfy with 
gifts. If one had gathered two, three or four fiefs, 
he would want to have as many more; and yet 
they all wore the same mask: Though I would 
have enough with one prebend, parish or bishop- 
rick, yet something more is needed that I may 
honorably fill my station as a prince, nobleman, or 
some other prelate. Then he makes use of all 
possible means to rake and scrape together all that 
he can get, and all for the purpose of honorably 
filling his place; and yet the light is kindled [it is 
now pretended] that he must not be said to be act- 


ing avariciously, but doing it all for the mainte- 
iience of his rank. So easily one can find a little 
gloss with which to kindle a light for the devil; 
and if one has no other resort, it will have to be 
this, that one says: "I will gather my money to- 
gether in such a way that I may afterwards provide 
for masses and public worship, or give alms for the 
maintenence of the poor," etc. That is kindling 
a great, beautiful light; then a man may worry 
himself to death and always say: "I mean it well ; 
and the simple-minded man, our Lord God, is 
capitally hoodwinked, so that he cannot see or 
notice these cunning tricks, and I'll get into his 
heaven before he is aware of it." But I have also 
seen many who have thus hoarded, so that guldens 
by the thousand lay stored up, but afterwards they 
died off with their property, so that no one knew 
what had become of it; for it was gained by ava- 
rice, it had to be left in avarice, devoured by moth 
and rust, and never be put to proper use. 

This I mention as an example from which one 
may see how skillfully Squire Avarice can adorn 
himself and put 'on pious airs if he has occasion 
for it ; and yet, in fact, he is a two-fold scoundrel 
and liar. For what does God care for it, that you 
mean to lead a splendid, knightly life, so that he 
should be pleased for you to act avariciously, con- 
trary to his" command, and live in such a way as if 
you wanted to get everything for yourself, to dis- 


play your splendor and pride, and afterward say 
that you are doing it for God's sake, and for the 
honor of the Church, and mean to pay for it with 
benefices and church-services. Just as if some 
one were to break into your house and open your 
coffers and take what he could find, and would 
afterward say he meant to give some of it for 
alms: ah, that would be a beautiful sacrifice! 
The right thing is: If you want to give to God, 
give him of what is your own ; for he says : I hate 
sacrifices that come from robbery. If you have, 
give what you choose; if you have not, then you 
are excused. But if you are avariciously scraping 
together so that you may be able to give, and pre- 
tend that you are doing it with that intention, 
then you are not in earnest, but it is a light that 
you have yourself taken from the dark lantern 
wherewith to deceive God and the people. 

Thus I might go through all ranks and condi- 
tions, and show how men dress themselves up so 
that avarice takes on the name of a virtue, and 
mammon is praised and honored as a god. But 
who is to tell all that the farmers at market, the 
citizens in towns, the nobleman in office and on 
his estate, are everywhere doing? The one exam- 
ple that I have giv'en is enough to show clearly 
and distinctively the darkness that is thick enough 
to be felt, and also to judge the others accordingly. 
What are we to think now of the great mass of 


the nobility that are now undertaking to deal in 
nearly all kinds of business, even with iron and 
nails? We must not call this all avarice; but, as 
God has given it, every one may seek his means 
of living as best he can, so that he may honorably 
fill his station, etc. That is also a little light that 
makes them stock-blind, so that it prevents them 
from seeing anything at all; whilst yet in ordinary 
worldly justice it is so ordered that every one may 
carry on his business and trade so that still his 
neighbor may also have a chance to get along and 
maintain himself. But now nobody can do any- 
thing for these griffins and lions that monopolize 
all kinds of business, and besides want to be called 
pious and honorable people. 

But (as was said) who can imagine what a mul- 
titude of such tricks are nowemplo\-ed in all ranks 
and trades? For w^hat is the world, but a great 
wide sea of all wickedness and scoundrelism, con- 
cealed under a covering and color of good that can- 
not be understood? Especially now in this last 
age, which is a sign that it cannot long endure, 
and is going to destruction. For the tendency is, 
as we say: the older, the stingier; th^ longer, the 
worse; and everybody is becoming so avaricious, 
that almost nobody can get to eat and drink on ac- 
count of others, although God gives everything in 
abundance. But that is the reward of the ingrati- 
tude and contempt that is shown towards the gos- 


pel, as I have said: He who apostatizes from the 
gospel must be so possessed by the devil that he 
cannot be avaricious enough: just as, on the other 
hand, he who has the gospel in his heart becomes 
mild, so that he not only ceases to rake and scrape 
together, but gives and risks everything, as much 
as he ought to and can, 

Well, we must still let the world be the world, 
and although it for a long while avariciously gath- 
ers everything for itself, it must nevertheless go 
back upon itself 'and leave everything for us; or, if 
we still must suffer poverty and trouble in the 
midst of it, we still have no evil portion, as Isaac 
and Jacob among their brethren. Through us they 
have gained worldly property and complete freedom 
from the oppression and burdens of the papacy, so 
that' they may do what they please. That is the 
portion of Ishmael, a flask with water, that Abra- 
ham hung about his neck, and let him go. But 
we have a different portion, that is called spiritual 
good and heavenly blessing: and are thus well pro- 
vided for. Their great possessions that they have 
we gladly renounce, and would not have them if 
they would throw them after us; on the other hand, 
they do not want the spiritual blessings that we 
have. So we will hold possession of the real terri- 
tory, and the inheritance that is ours forever, and 
we will let them boast of their portion that will 
soon fade away, and rob themselves for its sake of 

320 Luther's commentary on the 

our inheritance, which we would still be glad to 
share with them. If they, however, rob us of their 
portion, we have always so much that we can 
readily recover from the loss. 

But let us beware of this, that we do not fall into 
the false light, along with the world, that is the 
evil eye, that extinguishes the true light and makes 
of it a twofold darkness; and see to it that avarice 
does not perplex you with tliat sweet notion and 
beautiful coloring, that you mean to bring yourself 
or your children into a high, honorable position, 
and gi\'e them a great deal only to better and exalt 
their position; for thus avarice is the longer the less 
satisfied, but is alwavs reachins^ out for somethin": 
higher and beyond, and nobody is satisfied with his 
place; but, he who is a citizen would like to be a 
knight; a nobleman would like to be a prince, and 
so forth; a prince would like to travel like the em- 
peror. But do you wish to travel like a Christian? 
then beware of this notion as of the very worst 
darkness, and conduct your business in such a way, 
if God, through his blessing, gives you success, 
that your neighbor also alongside of you may pro- 
vide for himself and have pleasure in you, so that 
you may lend him a helping hand. For if you let 
the evil eye deceive you, then you have already 
lost the word of God, as driven out by that light, 
and one thick darkness is added to the other, that 
makes you totally blind and obdurate, so that noth- 
ing more can be done for you. 


V. 24. N'o man can serve tzvo masters ; for either he zvill hate 
the one and love the other ; or else he will hold to the one and 
despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

Here he pronounces a most fearful sentence 
aoainst tlie avaricious: first of all ao^ainst his 
Jews, who were the real avaricious bellies, and yet 
wanted to be holy and very devout, like our priests 
and ecclesiastics, he means to say: "You think 
you are all right, and are serving God with great 
earnestness, and are yet, along with that, avaricious 
scoundrels, so that^you are doing all this for mam- 
mon's sake, although you are also serving God." 
But this is the statement: No man can serve two 
masters at the same time. If you wish to be theT 
servants of God, then you cannot serve mamnion. 
Here he means two masters who are opposed to 
one another, not those who reign with one another, i 
For that is not self-contradictory, if I serve my 
prince or the emperor and God besides; for it , 
passes regularly from one to the other, so that if I 
obey the lowest one I am obe}ing the highest also. J 
Just as the head -of a family sends his wife or chil- 
dren to the servants, and through them commands 
these what they are to do: there is no multiplicity, 
but it is all one lord and from one master. But 
God and the devil, that means two masters, that 
are opposed to one another and issue contradictory i 
orders. God says: Thou shalt not be avaricious, : 
uor have any other God; but the devil, on thecon- 



trary, says: You may be avaricious and serve niam- 

Reason itself teaches this, that it is not sufferable 
to serve two antagonistic masters at the same time; 
although the world can skillfully do it, and this is 
called in German, carrying the tree on both shoul- 
ders, and blowing hot and cold from the same 
mouth; as when a nobleman serves a prince, and 
accepts hire from him, and betrays and sells him to 
another and accepts money also there, and watches 
what the weather promises to be, if it will rain 
here, so that the sun may shine there, and thus be- 
trays and makes merchandise of both. But there 
is no serving in all this, and even reason must say 
that such people are traitors and scoundrels. For 
how would you like it if you should have a servant 
who would accept wages from you and would be 
looking with one eye towards some one else, and 
not be at all concerned about your affairs; but, if 
something should go wrong to-day or to-morrow, 
would scamper off to the other and leave you in the 

Therefore it is right to say: He who is a good 
servant and wants to serve faitlifully, must not 
cling to two masters, but speak thus: " I have my 
support from this master, him will I serve as long 
as I am with him, will do the best I can for him 
and not concern myself about any one else. ' ' But if 
he wants to pilfer here, and steal there, then he's 


ready for the hangman. For one should kill the 
hens that eat at home and lay their eggs elsewhere. 
Thus did the Jews also; they supposed that God 
should regard them as great saints, and be well sat- 
isfied if they sacrificed in the temple and slaugh- 
tered their calves and cows, although they mean- 
wdiile were acting avariciously wherever they could, 
until they carried on their merchandizing before 
and in the temple, and set up their money-chang- 
ing tables, so that materials could be promptly 
furnished and no one should, leave without sacri- 

Against these Christ now pronounces this sen- 
tence, so that no one may undertake to be the ser- 
vant of God and mammon. It is not possible to 
maintain his service, which he has established, if 
you are determined to be avaricious after mammon^ 
For the worship of God means that you cleave to 
his word alone and make everything bend to that. 
He who will live according to that, and be consist- j 
ent, must at once renounce mammon. For this is 
sure: as soon as a preacher or pastor becomes 
avaricious he is no longer of any use, and cannot 
preach any thing good. For he must be on his 
guard and dare not rebuke any one, allows himself 
to have his mouth stopped by presents, so that he 
may let the people do what they please, avoids 
making any one angry, especially the great and 
powerful: and thus neglects his duty and office that 


requires him to rebuke the wicked. Thus also, if 
a burgomaster or judge or auy one who liolds an 
office is to execute his office and see to it that it 
is rightly :ulministered, he must not be much 
concerned about how rich he may become and 
derive benefit from it. Is he, however, a servant 
of mammon, he allows himself to be bribed 
with presents, so that he becomes blind and no 
longer sees how the people live. For he thinks: 
Am I to punish this one or that one? then I will 
make enemies and may thereby lose what is mine, 
etc. And although he has an excellent service, 
and is occupying the office that God has ordered 
and given to him, he still cannot administer and 
exercise it; this is the work of mammon, that has 
taken possession of his heart. 

So it goes now in the world everywhere, so that 
it supposes it to be a small matter and no great 
danger with regard to mammon ; and it flatters it- 
self with the beautiful, sweet thought, that it can 
still serve God; but this is a miserable deception 
by which the devil blinds a person, so that he no 
longer attends to his official duty, and becomes ab- 
sorbed in avarice; and this solely for the reason 
that he fears that he will not receive honor, gifts, 
or presents. 

Therefore Christ (as above said) pronounces a 
strict sentence that one should not deceive himself 
with such thouofhts and count this a small matter: 


but should know that he who for the sake of mam- 
mon, money or pleasure, or honor or favor, does 
not administer his office as he should, will not be 
recognized by God as his servant, but as his enemy, 
as we will hear; but he who wishes to be found in 
God's service, and to execute his office properly, 
so that he may think, with a manly heart, that he 
can despise the world with its mammon; but this 
not as an outgrowth of his own evil heart, but as a 
gift from heaven, with prayer that God, who has 
bestowed upon you this office, may also give you 
grace to administer it; and enable you to believe 
that you have and can do nothing nobler and better 
on earth than the service that you are to render to 
him, and not be much concerned as to whether you 
suffer harm through it or get into trouble; and 
comfort yourself with this, that you are serving a 
great Master who can easily make you enjoy your 
loss, which is better than that you should lose the 
eternal treasure for the sake of the small temporal 
good that at any rate cannot help you. For if you 
are to choose a master, would you not much rather 
serve the living God than the powerless dead 
knave ? 

See, thus every Christian does who has God's 
word, that he may so honor and observe it, and 
not care whether the world is thereby vexed or 
fails to get any advantage from it; but he thinks 
thus: There is purse and pocket, house and home, 


etc.; hut /ie re is my Christ: if I am now to leave 
and give up one, then I will let all that go, so that 
I may keep my Christ. That is what Christ means 
when he sajs one cannot serve two masters. For 
it will happen sooner or later that they will con- 
flict, and one must yield to the other. Therefore 
there is no use for you to flatter yourself that you 
mean to keep them both as masters; but you must 
soon decide to leave one or the other. 

Therefore the stress lies here on the little word, 
serve. To have money and property, wife, child, 
house and home, this is not sinful; but you must 
not let this be your master, but you must make it 
serve you, and you be its master; as we say of an 
honest, excellent, well-disposed man: He is mas- 
ter of his money; not so subservient to it and held 
captive by it as a stingy greedy-belly, who would 
rather let God's word go, and everything else, 
holding back both hand and mouth, than to run 
any risk with his money. That is a womanly, 
childish and servile heart, that despises and ne- 
glects the eternal treasure for the sake of the scaly 
mammon which it cannot use or enjoy; yet lives 
along securely meanwhile, thinks it can attend to 
God's word at any time, keeps on accumulating as 
much as it can, so as not to miss a penny for God's 
sake, until it sinks more and more deeply into ava- 
rice, gets farther and farther from God's word, and 
finally opposes it altogether. 


For Christ used hard language and spoke very 
plainly when he said: "Either he will hate the 
one and love the other; or he will hold to the one 
and despise the other." That is as much as to say: 
The shameful love of mammon makes enemies to 
God; as some of our priests publicly say: That 
would indeed be an excellent way of teaching, but 
it does harm; therefore it is objected to, and not un- 
reasonably (as they think), for it does give occasion 
to trouble. But mammon is a capital god; he does 
no harm in the kitchen or in the purse. Therefore 
here love and friendship come to an issue over the 
words: "he will hate the one and love the other." 
For there are two masters, that are opposed to each 
other, and cannot peaceabl}'' dwell together in one 
heart, as little as two owners in one house; so that 
when the test comes that one must serve and hold 
to the one, then one must aliger the other or leave 
him. Thus one becomes the enemy of God, as a 
matter of course, because he loves money and 

This is the precious fruit of the service of mam- 
mon; as can especially now be seen, since avarice 
has gained such complete control, that there is a 
perfect leprosy of avarice among the nobility, 
peasants, civilians, priests and laymen. Is not 
that a great piece of sanctity and a beautiful virtue, 
that one takes the best part of man from God and 
gives it to mammon? For that is certainly the 


highest service, to which the heart is sincerely de- 
voted, which the whole body and all the members 
hanker after; as Christ said above: "Where your 
treasure is, there will your heart be also." For 
what one loves, that he will assuredly run after, 
that he will be glad to talk about, that has all his 
heart and his thoughts; hence also Augustine 
says: ^^ Dens mens ^ amor vieus^'''' what I love, that 
is my god. From this you see what kind of peo- 
ple those are to whom Christ applies this title — that 
they are the enemies of God, who yet feign such 
great display of serving him, as his best friends; 
but at heart they are nothing else than real devil's 
saints, who heartily hate and persecute God and 
his word and work. 

For that is truly to hate God, if one hates his 
word. This is the way of it: If one rebukes a 
man for avarice and unbelief, and holds before him 
the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other 
gods before me," that is, thou shalt not incline 
thy heart, desire and love, to any one else than to 
me; and he will not hear or endure that rebuke; 
but begins to rebel and rage against it, until he is 
quite embittered against it in heart, with rankling 
hatred against the word and its preachers. There- 
fore there is in the text of the ten commandments 
such a word of threatening: "I am a jealous God, 
visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children 
of them that hate me,'^ etc., by whom he means 


these very greedy-bellies and mammon-servers, 
as the Scriptures call avarice idolatry or the wor- 
ship of idols. Yet they want (as above said) to be 
praised as the greatest saints, and as enemies of 
idolatry and heretics, and by no means to have it 
said that they hate God. But this is the proof 
against them that they cannot hear or see the word 
of God, when it attacks their avarice, and want to 
be wholly unreproved; and the more one rebukes 
and threatens them, the more they laugh and mock, 
and do what they please against God and every 
one else. 

See now, is not this a shameful evil and an 
abominable sin, that ought to alarm us and make us 
heartily hostile to mammon, ask God's protection 
against it, and flee from it as from the devil ? For 
who would not dread falling into it, and hearing 
this decision concerning himself that he is to be 
called an enemy of God, who not only depises him, 
but wishes that God and his word did not exist, 
that he might only have his free pleasure and will, 
to God's annoyance and vexation. For reckon 
yourself what will happen to such a man, and what 
kind of a person he is loading upon himself, so 
that at last it will be quite too heavy for him. 

And they are indeed very well punished (as the 
text says), by the fact that they are such miserable 
people, that their heart, desire, love and pleasure 
are set upon the out-house, when they ought to be 

330 Luther's commentary on the 

ill heaven and set upon that which is God's. How 
could a man more completely disgrace himself 
than by turning his consolation away from God, 
who gives him everything that is good, and well 
deserves to have our good will, and posting himself 
behind the devil and taking delight in his stench 
and hell, and even becoming so hellishly wicked 
that he not only despises the word of God, but be- 
comes so murderously opposed to it that he wishes 
there were no God? That is the gratitude that he 
receives from these greedy-bellies, to whom he daily 
gives bodily life, sun and moon, and the treasures 
that they have. But they will jfind out what they 
gain thereby, and they have it in part already, so 
that they must be constantly devouring the devil's 
stench and filth. 

That is one part of the text, spoken of mammon: 
"Either he will hate the one and love the other ; " 
the other is: "or, he will hold to the one (that is, 
God) and despise the other." Here he does not 
merely say: " He will love the one;" but he shows 
the deed and work of love by the word: "hold to." 
For he who is to love God and his word, will not 
find it so very small a matter, but often very hard 
to do, and the love will become such as the devil 
will often make sour and bitter. Therefore it is 
necessary that we be able to hold and hang fast to 
God's word, and do not let ourselves be torn loose 
from it, although our own flesh and the example 


of the whole world, and the devil besides, oppose 
it and endeavor to take it from us; and he must 
needs be a man and have knightly courage that 
can resist so many enemies; yes, there must be a 
great fiery zeal of love, that is burning so brightly 
that one can give up everything, house and home, 
wife and child, honor and property, body and life, 
yes, despise it too, and trample it under foot, so 
that he only may preserve the treasure, which he 
still does not see, and which is despised in the 
world, but only offered in the mere word and. 
believed on in the heart. 

Yet he does not mean thereby that we are not to 
have money and property, or, if we have it, to 
throw it awa}'; as some fools among the philoso- 
phers, and cranky saints among Christians have 
taught and done. For he grants that you may be 
rich, but he does not want you to fix your love 
upon that; as David taught and proved by his own 
example: "If riches increase, set not your heart 
upon them." Ps. Ixii. lo. That is such a state of 
mind that, in the midst of money and property 
given by God, can keep the heart free (which the 
world cannot do), and if it seeks to entice the heart 
to itself (as the beautiful florins and shining silver 
goblets and jewels bewitchingly smile), and to bear, 
it away from God, then he can trample it under 
foot, and so completely despise it as the world 
clings to it, and on the contrary despises the heav- 



enly treasure. In short, a man must be mammon's 
master, so that it must lie at his feet; but he must 
be subject to no one, nor have any one as his mas- 
ter except the word of God. But this is preached 
to the little flock that believe in Christ, and hold 
his word to be true; with the others it amounts to 

V. 25. Therefore I say unto you. Take no thought for your 
life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your 
body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more thati weal, and 
the body than raiment? 

The Lord expatiates here in delivering a strong 
denunciation of this ruinous vice, because (as said 
above) it commonly pushes its way in violently 
along with the gospel, and fiercely assails not only 
the world but also Christians; especially, however, 
those who are to preach the word of God and ex- 
pose themselves to all sorts of danger on its account, 
who are despised and oppressed by the world, so that 
they so far as the flesh is concerned have good reason 
for anxiety. For he who wishes to be a Christian 
and confess his Lord, he makes the devil (who is a 
prince of the world) his enemy. Therefore he as- 
sails and seizes him, not through the word and 
faith, but through that which is under his king- 
dom and power. Now we have our worthless body, 
flesh and blood, still in his kingdom; that he can 
indeed torment, and cast into prison, rob of food, 


and drink, and clothes, so that we, with all we 
have, must always be in this danger. Flesh and 
blood, on the other hand, thinks how it can also 
manage to hold its place securely and escape dan- 
ger. Thus the temptation arises that is called care 
for a livelihood; though the world does not con- 
sider it a temptation, but rather considers it a vir- 
tue, and it praises these people that can scheme 
for great property and honor, etc. 

And here you learn what it means to serve mam- : 
mon, namely, to care for life and our body, what 
we are to eat and drink, to have about us and to 
put on; that is, to think only of this life, how we 
may become rich here, may gather and heap up 
money and property, as if we were to remain here 
forever. For this is not sin, nor serving mammon, 
that we eat and drink, and clothe ourselves, as the 
needs of this life and of the body require, so that it 
may have its food and clothing; also, it is no sin to 
seek and gain food; but [it is sinful] to be careful 
about it, that is, to set the heart's comfort and con- 
fidence upon it. For care does not inhere in the 
garment or in the food, but right in the heart; that 
cannot let it go, it will hanker after it; as we say: 
Goods give courage, etc., so that caring means 
hankering after it with the heart. For what the 
heart does not intend and love, that I am not con- 
cerned about; and again, what I care for, that I 
must have a heart for. 


Yet you iimst not press the text too close!}', as 
though it meaut to forbid caring for anything at 
all. For every office or calling carries with it the 
duty of caring for that which belongs to it, espe- 
cially where one is placed over others; as St. Paul 
says, Rom. xii. 8, concerning spiritual offices in 
Christendom: He that ruleth, let him do it with 
diligence. Thus the head of a family must care 
for his children and domestics, that they be well 
trained and do what they should; and if he neglects 
this he does wrong. In the same way it is the care 
of a preacher or a pastor that the preaching and the 
sacraments are rightly attended to; that he comfort 
the distressed and sick, rebuke the wicked, pray for 
all kind of needy ones, etc. For he is commanded 
to wait upon and direct souls. Thus a prince and 
other persons in authority must care for the secular 
government, that it is riglith- administered, as tlieir 
office requires. In like manner also subjects are to 
care that they faithfully render and accomplish 
their obedience; servants and maids, that they 
properly serve their masters and guard their in- 
terests, etc. 

Christ is not here speaking of this kind of care; 
for there is an official care that is to be carefully 
distinguished from avarice. For that is not con- 
cerned about itself, but about its neighbor; it does 
not seek its own, yes, it even neglects its own, and 
is indifferent about it, and serves another, so that 


it is called a care of love, which is godlike and 
Christian, not that of selfishness or of mammon, 
which is both against faith and love, and it is the 
very thing that hinders the official care. For he 
who is in love with his money and caring for his 
own advantage will not pay much attention to his 
neighbor or his office, which involves his neighbor. 
As we saw heretofore in our ecclesiastics, who 
were not at all concerned about properly caring for 
souls, but their whole aim was that the world should 
contribute enough to them; and what did not bring 
them in any money, that they neglected, so that 
not one of them would as much as say a Pater 
nosier for another without pay. But a pious pastor 
cares only for this, that he may rightly administer 
his office, that souls may be benefitted thereby; is 
not concerned about it, that he does not gain much 
by it, yes, has to suffer much for it, bite himself 
with snakes, have the world and the devil as his ene- 
mies, lets God see to it that he gets enough to eat, 
etc. ; but consoles himself with another treasure 
(for the sake of which he does all this,) in that life, 
which is so great that all that he here suffers is 
quite too small in comparison, etc. 

Because now he has forbidden this care of avarice 
and mammon worship as idolatrous and making 
men enemies to God, he continues, by adding many 
illustrations and comparisons, so that he may make 
avarice all the more odious to us, and endeavors to 


depict it in such hateful colors that we will feel 
like spitting upon it, and says, first of all: Is not life 
more than food? that is, you can and must entrust 
God with your life, of body and soul, and it is not 
within your power to continue it for a single hour; 
what fools then you are that you will not entrust 
to him your body's nourishment, that he may 
procure eating and drinking for you? For how 
can one imagine greater folly than for one to be 
painfully solicitous about getting food and drink, 
and having no care about getting body and life or 
retaining theni for an hour? — just as if one should 
be careful to adorn his house beautifully, and did 
not know who was to live in it; or, how he might 
prepare much and excellent food in the kitchen, 
and should have no one who was about to eat it. 
Just so it is that we act with our avariciousness, 
that we care for the least and never think of the 
most important. That is really unnecessary and 
superfluous, yes, foolish care. And though we 
should care a great deal about our bodily life, there 
would be nothing gained by that, for it is not 
for a moment within our power; just as little as if 
any one were to worry himself to death, how the 
grain is to grow in the field, which he has not 
sowed; or where the silver is to lie in the mine, 
that he has not put there. 

Since then, in the whole matter of our life we 
must dismiss care, and this, without our thinking 


or c'oing auxthing about it, is hourly niaintaiued 
b)' God; why should we worry about little things as 
if he neither could nor would give us food and cov- 
ering? We ought to be ashamed that anyone should 
say of us that we are guilty of such folly. Yet our 
conduct, especially that of the great, rich bellies, 
is nothing else than that of the fools, that are ever 
caring only to have their kitchens full, and have 
an abundance provided, and }et have no table or 
guests; or who have many luxurious beds provided 
and have no one to occupy them; just as if a shoe- 
maker should do nothing else all his life but fill his 
shop with shoe-lasts, and never think about where 
he would get leather to make a shoe; ought we not to 
march him out of the country as a crank and a fool ? 
See, Christ thus shows us what foolish people 
we are, so that we might well spit upon ourselves; 
and nevertheless we live along in this blindness, 
although it is perfectly plain, that we cannot take 
care of our bodily life, and if we did care for that we 
would just thereby have to become Christians and 
think: See, I do not even have my own life in my 
hand for a moment. Since then I must entrust 
my bodily life to God, why shall I then doubt and 
care how the belly may be nourished for a day or 
two? Just as if I had a rich father who would 
gladly present me with a thousand florins, and I 
would not trust him to give me a penny when 
I need it. 


338 lutiier's commentary on the 

V. 26, 27. Beholdthe fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither 
do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father 
feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you 
by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 

Here he adds an illustration and a comparison to 
the exhortation in mockery, ridicule and contempt 
of the wretched avarice and belly-care, so that he 
may drive us away from it, and remind us what we 
ourselves are, so that we may be heartily ashamed 
of ourselves, since we are far nobler and better than 
the birds, as we are lords not only of the birds, but 
of all living creatures, and all things are given to 
us for service and created for our sake: and yet we 
have not so much faith as to trust that we may 
sustain ourselves with all these things that God has 
given and provided for us: whilst he is daily giv- 
ing their food and nourishment to the smallest 
birds, yes, to the very smallest worms, as our ser- 
vants, .without their caring or thinking at all about 
it, yet they do not gather anything or lay up in 
store; they neither sow, nor if it be sowed can they 
gather it in. 

Is it not now a shameful disgrace, that we, for 
whom God has given and provided all creatures, 
and for whom he causes so much to grow every 
year, so that we have enough annually to sow, and 
very much more to reap, cannot trust our belly to 
him without care and avarice? For if anybody 
ought to care and gather, it should be done by the 


little birds; since they cannot do that, and might 
think when summer is coming : See, now all 
the world is sowing its grain, so that in summer 
they may again gather it in; now, or in harvest, 
everybody is harvesting and accumulating, and as 
all do not have a little grain to sow or to gather in, 
where are we throughout the year, especially in the 
cold winter, to get anything to eat, when every- 
thing has been housed and nothing is left in the 
fields? What would we men do if we for a single 
summer had nothing to sow? Yes, if we did not 
know of provision for a fortnight, how would all 
the world then become desperate, as if we would 
all have to die of hunger? Now the little birds 
fly in the air summer and winter, sing and are 
happy, never worry or care at all, though they do 
not know where they are to get food to-morrow: 
and we miserable, greedy bellies, never cease car- 
ing, although we have barns and store-houses full, 
and see grain growing in the fields so abundantly. 
See, thus he makes the birds masters and teach- 
ers, so that a weak little sparrow must stand in the 
gospel, to our great, lasting disgrace, as teacher 
and preacher of the very wisest man, and hold this 
daily before our eyes and ears; as though he wished 
to say to us: See, miserable man, you have house 
and home, money and property, and every year 
your field full of grain and growth of all kinds, 
more than you need; yet you have no peace, and 


are always caring lest yon may die of linnger; and 
if yon do not see provision and know that it is be- 
fore yon, yon cannot trnst God, that he will give 
yon food foi- one day; whilst there are such multi- 
tudes of us, not one of whom is all his life-time 
ever anxiously concerned, and yet God daily nour- 
ishes lis. In short, we have as many masters and 
preachers as there are little birds in the air, that put 
us to shame with their living example, so thai we 
ought to be ashamed, and not venture to lift up our 
eyes if we hear a bird singing, that is proclaiming 
heavenward God's praise and our disgrace; yet we 
are so obdurate that we pay no attention to it, 
although we hear this preached and sung daily 
on every hand. 

Yes, see what else they do, the dear little birds; 
how entirely free from care they live, and look for 
their food alone from the hand of God. If we cage 
them, that they shall sing, and give them plenty 
to eat, so that they ought to think: Now I have 
enough, so that I need not care where I will get 
anything to eat; for I now have a rich master, and 
my barns are full, etc. ; that they do not do, but 
they would much rather be free in the air, are fatter 
too, and sing better and more sweetly Laiides and 
matins, early in the morning, before they eat; and 
yet not one of them knows of a little grain in store; 
they make a beautiful, long Benedicite^ and let our 
Lord God take care, even when they have little 


ones that they have to feed. Therefore, when you 
hear a nightingale, you hear the cutest preacher, 
who reminds you of this gospel, not with poor, 
mere words, but with the living act and example, 
because it sings the whole night long, and screams 
itself nearly to death, and is merrier in the grove 
than if it is cooped up in a cage, where we have to 
attend to it with all diligence, and where it seldom 
thrives or remains alive; as if it were to say: I 
would much rather be in the kitchen of the Lord, 
who has made heaven and earth, and is himself 
cook and host, and daily feeds and nourishes in- 
numerabla little birds out of his hand, and has not 
just a sack full, but heaven and earth full of little 

Thus Christ now speaks: Since you daily see 
how your heavenly Father feeds the little birds in 
the field, without their having any care; cannot 
you then trust him so much that he will also feed 
you, because he is your Father, and calls you his 
children? Should he not much rather care for you 
whom he has made his children, and to whom he 
gives his word and all creatures, than for the little 
birds, that are not his children, but your servants? 
And yet he holds them in such high esteem that he 
daily feeds them, as if he had only these to care 
for; and he takes pleasure in it, that they quite 
without care fly about and sing, as if they should 
say: I sing and am cheerful, and yet I know not 

343 i.uther's commentary on the 

of a little grain that I am to eat; my bread is not 
yet baked, my grain is not yet sowed; but I have 
a rich master who cares for me, while I sing or 
sleep; he can give me more than all men and I 
could get with our caring. 

Since now the birds understand the art of trust- 
ing him so completely, and throwing off care from 
themselves upon God, we, who are his children, 
should much rather do it. Therefore it is an ex- 
cellent illustration that puts us all to shame, so that 
we, who are people endowed with reason, and be- 
sides have the Scriptures at hand, do not have so 
much wisdom as to imitate the birds, and must 
daily hear ourselves disgraced before God and the 
people, as often as we hear little birds sing. But 
man has become crazy and foolish, since he fell 
away from God's word and command, so that hence- 
forth there is no creature living that is not wiser 
than he; and a little finch, that can neither speak 
nor read, is his teacher and master in the Scrip- 
tures, although he has the whole Bible and his 
reason to help him. 

This is the first illustration; to this he appends 
a saying taken from our own experience, and shows 
that our caring is useless and accomplishes nothing: 
Who is there among you, (says he,) who can add 
one cubit to his stature, although he is concerned 
about it? If a man should never grow to full size 
except through his own caring, how large would 


we grow? or, of what avail would it be for a little 
dwarf to worry himself to death how he might be- 
come larger? What do you accomplish by cariug 
where you are to get food and clothing? just as if 
it stood in your power to make your body as stout 
and as tall as you wished. Your body with all its 
members is of definite size, and has its length and 
breadth, so that you cannot make it otherwise, and 
you are defied to make it a hair's-breadth taller. 
What a fool then you are, that you are concerned 
about that which is not within your power, and 
which is already limited both as to time and ex- 
tent, viz. how long your bodily life shall last, and 
cannot trust him that he will procure for you also 
both food and clothing as long as you have to live 
here, etc. ! 

V. 28-30. And why take ye thought for raiment f Consider 
the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do 
they spin : and yet I say unto you. That Solomon in all his 
glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so 
clothe the grass af the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is 
cast into the oven, shall he libt much more clothe you, O ye of 
little faith ? 

Here j^ou have another illustration and compari- 
son, in which the little flowers of the field, that are 
trampled upon and eaten by the cattle, must also be- 
come our teachers and masters, so that our disgrace 
may become still greater. For see how they grow 
up, so beautifully ornamented with colors, and yet 


not one of them cares and thinks how it is to grow, 
or what kind of color it is to liave, but it lets God 
care for this; and, without any care or effort on its 
part, God clothes it with such beautiful, lovely 
colors, that Christ says that Solomon in all his 
glory was not as beautiful as one of these ; yes, no 
empress, with her whole retinue, with all her gold, 
pearls and jewels. For he cannot name any king 
who was richer, more glorious, and more splendidly 
adorned than Solomon: yet the king, with all his 
grand display and splendor, is nothing in compari- 
son with a rose or pink or violet in the field. Thus 
our Lord God can adorn whom he will adorn, so 
that it deserves to be called adorned, and no man 
can make or paint such a color, and wish for or get 
another still more beautiful adornment; and if we 
should beautify them with gold and satin, they 
still would say: I would rather that my Master 
up there in heaven should adorn me, who adorns 
the little birds, than all the tailors and embroid- 
erers on earth. 

Since now he clothes and adorns so many flowers 
with such various colors, and each has its own 
dress, and outranks with it all worldly splendor, 
why cannot we confide in him that he will also 
clothe us? For what are the flowers and grass upon 
the field in comparison with us? Or, for what were 
they created except to stand there for a day or two, 
and exhibit themselves, and then to wither and be- 


come liay; or, as Christ says, to be cast into the 
oven, so that one may burn tliem and heat the oven? 
Yet our Lord God holds these perishable and insig-- 
nificant things in such estimation, and bestows so 
much expense upon them, that he adorns them 
more splendidly than any king upon earth, though 
they do not need this ornamentation, and it is even 
lost upon them, as they soon perish along with the 
flower. But we, his highest creatures, on whose 
account he has made all else, and to whom he gives 
everything, and who are of such account to him 
that this life is not to be the end of us, but after 
this life he means to give to us eternal life; should 
not we have so much confidence in him, that 
he will clothe us as he clothes the flowers of the 
field and the birds of the air with manifold beauti- 
ful colors and feathers? That is putting the case 
as so dishonorable for us, and depicting our unbe- 
lief as so disgraceful, that he could not make it 
more contemptible. 

But it is the [fault of the] miserable devil and 
the terrible fall that we made, that we must see the 
whole world full of these illustrations of the birds 
against us, who with their example and appearance 
rebuke our unbelief, and become our highest Doc- 
tores^ sing and preach to us, and smile at us so 
lovingly, that we should only believe; yet we live 
on, let ourselves be preached and sung to, and keep 
on avariciously raking together; but [it is] to our 

346 Luther's commentary on the 

eternal shame and disgrace that ever)' little flower 
testifies against us and* condemns our unbelief 
before God and all creatures until the judgment 
day. Therefore he now concludes this sermon 
before his Christians. 

V. 31, 32. Therefore take no thought, saying. What shall we 
eat f or. What shall we drink ? or. Wherewithal shall we be 
clothed ? {For after all these things do the Gentiles seek .•) for 
your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these 

Since you daily see these illustrations in every- 
thing that lives and grows out of the earth, how 
God nourishes and feeds it and most beautifully 
clothes and adorns it: be induced to lay aside care 
and unbelief, and consider that you are Christians 
and not heathen. For such caring and avarice be- 
long to the heathen, who do not know Qod, or ask 
about him, and it is real idolatry, as St. Paul says, 
and as was said also above, where he calls it serv- 
ing mammon. 

Therefore no greedy-belly is a Christian, al- 
though he was baptized; but he has surely lost 
Christ, and has become a heathen. For the two 
cannot endure each other, to be avaricious and full 
of care and to believe; one must exclude the other. 
Now there is nothing more shameful before God 
and all creatures, for Christians who hear and know 
the word of God, than that they can be said to be 
like the heathen who do not believe that God 


nourishes thein and gives them everything, and 
thus fall away from God, deny the faith, and pay 
no regard either to his word or to these manifest 
illustrations. This is a hard sentence that reason- 
ably ought to alarm every one. For it is a prompt 
conclusion, that a professed Christian should either 
reflect, and leave off caring avariciously, or know 
that he is no Christian, but ten times worse than a 

Besides, (he says,) since you are Christians, you 
dare not doubt as to your Father's knowing very 
well that you need all this; namely, that you have 
a belly that needs eating and drinking, and a body 
that needs to be clothed. If he did not know it, 
then you would have cause to care and to think 
how you might nourish ^-ourselves; but now that 
he knows it, he will not neglect you. For he is 
so kind that he gladly attends to it, and especially 
for you Christians, because (as was said) he cares 
also for the birds of the air. Therefore drop the 
care, for at any rate you gain nothing by it. It 
does not depend upon your caring, but upon his 
knowing and caring. If nothing grew in the 
field before we cared for it, we would all have died 
in our cradles, and nothing could grow after night 
when we are lying asleep; yes, if we were all to 
worry ourselves to death, no stalk would grow in 
the field for our caring; we must ourselves see and 
comprehend that God gives everything without our 

348 luthkr's commentary on the 

caring for it; yet we are such godless people that 
we will not cease our caring and avarice, nor allow 
God alone to have the care, to whom alone it be- 
longs, as to a father for his children. 

V. 33 : Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteous- 
ness ; aiid ait these things shall be added unto you. 

The Lord saw very well, as I said, that none 
among the outward, gross vices so outrageously 
counteracts the gospel, and hinders [the progress 
of] God's kingdom, as avarice. For as soon as a 
preacher lays his plans for becoming rich, he no 
longer rightly administers his office; for his heart 
is ensnared by the care for the means of living, as 
in a net, as St. Paul calls it, so that he can no 
longer teach and rebuke, as and where he should; 
concerned lest he might lose favor and friendship 
among those from whom he can secure it: allows 
himself to be misled, so that he keeps silent, and 
misleads other people too; not through heresy, but 
through his own belly, which is his idol. For he 
who wants to be the right kind of a preacher, and 
faithfully perform his duty, must retain and assert 
his liberty unterrifiedly to tell the truth, without 
respect of persons, and rebuking if necessary great 
and small, rich, poor, powerful, friend and foe. 
This avarice does not do. For it fears, if it should 
offend many people or good friends, it would find 
itself in want of bread. Hence it draws in its 
whistles and keeps silence. 


In the same way also the mass of the people, 
who are not preachers, but who should hear the 
word of God, and help to further the kingdom of 
God, every one in his own station and mode of 
living, are not willing to run any risk or to be pre- 
pared for or endure any want, for the sake of the 
gospel; but they look out for it, first of all, that 
they have enough, and that their belly is provided 
for, no matter whether the gospel keeps up or lags 
behind; thus they go along, raking and scraping, 
as well as they can, giving the preachers nothing, 
even besides taking from them what they may have. 
Thus it goes according to the devil's wishes, so 
that no one wants to preach or hear any more, and 
thus both the doctrine and its fruits in the hearts 
of the people disappear, and the kingdom of God 
falls entirely away. This is alone the work of the 
abouiinably devilish mammon. See, that is the 
reason why the Lord Christ so faithfully warns his 
own against it by such a long sermon. 

And in order that we may the better guard our- 
selves against it, he prescribes in these words a 
very powerful remedy, how we are to treat it, so 
that we do not need to care; and that we may yet 
have enough, yes, a much greater and more excel- 
lent treasure than mammon can give us, and than 
we can get through our caring, and this remedy 
is, to seek the kingdom of God. 

But it is very important that it should be deeply 

350 Luther's commentary on the 

impressed upon our heart what the kingdom of 
God is, and what it imparts. For if we could be 
made to understand this, so that we would rightly 
apprehend and could in our heart measure and 
weigh how great and precious a treasure it is in 
contrast with mammon or the kingdom of the 
world, that is, everything upon earth, then we 
would spit upon mammon. For what more would 
you have, although you should have the posses- 
sions and the power of the king of France, and of 
the Turkish emperor besides, than a beggar before 
the door has with his scraps? For the only thing 
we have to do is daily to fill our belly; we can't 
do anything more with all our worldly goods and 
glory ; and the poorest beggar has as much of this 
as the mightiest emperor, yes, his broken victuals 
taste much better and do him more good than the 
splendid, royal meal does to the latter. That is 
the whole of it, and no one gets any more from it, 
and in a little while we must say good-bye to it 
all, and we cannot prolong our life with it for a 
single hour when the time comes. Hence it is a 
poor, miserable, yes a nasty, stinking kingdom. 

What is, however, on the contrary, the kingdom 
of God, or of the Lord Christ? Count that up for 
yourself, and say, what is the creature in compari- 
son with the Creator, and the world in comparison 
with God? For if all heaven and earth were 
mine alone, what would I have as over against 


God? Not as mucli as a little drop of water or a 
particle of dust in comparison with the entire 
ocean ; besides, it is such a treasure as cannot 
cease or diminish and become smaller ; so that 
both as to its greatness and durability it cannot be 
measured or comprehended by any human heart or 
senses; and shall I so shamefully reject and give 
up God and his kingdom, that I may take this 
dirty, deadly belly-kingdom in preference to that 
divine, imperishable one that gives me eternal life, 
righteousness, peace, joy and salvation? And every- 
thing that I here in time seek and desire I am to 
have in this one eternally, and everything immeas- 
urably more glorious and superabundant than what 
I can obtain here upon earth with great difficulty, 
care and labor; and before I can get it, and can 
accomplish what I want, I must go away and let 
everything lie. Is that not a great, shameful folly 
and blindness, that we do not see this? Yes, a 
stubborn wickedness of the world, possessed by the 
devil, that it will not be instructed or give heed 
when we preach this to it? 

Therefore Christ wishes with these words to stir 
us up, and to say: if you wish to be properly 
careful and solicitous about having always enough, ; 
then seek for that treasure that is' called the kine- 
dom of God. Do not be concerned for the tem- 
poral, perishable treasure that is destroyed by moth 
and rust, as he said before. You have a very dif- 


fereiit treasure in heaven, which I am pointing out 
to you; care and seek for that, and contemplate 
what you have in that, and }-ou will easily forget 
the other. For it is a treasure of such a kind that 
will sustain you forever, and cannot be lost or 
taken away, so that because the treasure is endur- 
ing and you clinging to it, you must also endure, 
even though you have not a penny from the world. 

It has often been told what the kingdom of God 
is, namely, most briefly, that it does not consist in 
external tilings, eating and drinking, etc., nor other 
works which we can do; but in this, that we be- 
lieve in Jesus Christ, who is the head and sole king 
in this kingdom, in and through tvhom we have 
everything, so that no sin, death and misfortune 
can injure him who abides in it [the kingdom], 
but he has eternal life, joy and salvation, which 
here begin in this faith, but in the last day will be 
revealed and eternally completed. 

What now does it mean to seek this kingdom? 
or how do we attain to it? What way must we 
take? One points in this direction, another in 
that. Thus, the pope teaches : Go to Rome and 
get an indulgence, confess and do penance, read or 
hear mass, put on a hood, and practice long public 
worship and a severe, strict life. That is the way 
we always used to run, just as we were told, as 
silly and foolish people, and all wanted to find the 
kingdom of God; but we found just the kingdom 


of t'le devil. For there are many ways here, but 
one and all are aside from the only [true] one, 
which is to believe in Christ and to diligently 
apply and use the gospel, upon which faith rests, 
with preaching, hearing, reading, singing, medi- 
tating, and in every possible way, so that one may 
always at heart be growing and becoming stronger, 
and give outward evidence by his fruits, so that he 
maybe always promoting it and leading many others 
to it; as we (thank God) are now doing, and there 
are still many besides, both preachers and other 
Christians, who with all diligence are busily urging 
it on, so that they subordinate all that they have, 
and would be ready to lose it all, rather than let go 
of the word. 

No monk, nun or -priest does or understands this, 
although they boast that they are God's servants 
and espoused to Christ. For they all miss the only 
right way, and ignore the gospel; they know nei- 
ther God nor Christ and his kingdom. For he 
who wants to know and find it must not seek for it 
after his own notion, but hear his word, as the 
foundation and corner-stone, and see whither he 
directs 3'ou and how he interprets it. Now his 
word about his kingdom is this : He who believes 
and is baptized shall be saved. This word was not 
spun out of our heads, nor did it grow out of the 
heart of any man; but it descended from heaven, 
and was proclaimed by the mouth of God, so that 


we nia}' be perfectly sure and not miss the right 
way. Where now this is practised, both among 
preachers and hearers, so that the word and sacra- 
ments are diligently employed, where men live 
accordingly and persevere in so doing, so that it 
becomes known among the people, and the young- 
people are drawn in and taught: that is what we 
mean by seeking and promoting and being properly 
concerned about the kingdom of God. 

What is the meaning of his adding: And his 
righteousness ? The kingdom has also a righteous- 
ness; it is, however, a different righteousness from 
that of the world, as it is also a different kingdom. 
This means now the righteousness that is by faith, 
that is efficient and active through good works; in 
this way, that the gospel with me is a very serious 
matter, and I diligently hear and practice it, and 
am actually living in accordance with it, and am 
not a trifling gossip or a hypocrite, who lets it in 
at one ear and out at the other; but I am one who 
gives practical proof that the kingdom is here, as 
St. Paul says, i Cor. iv. 20: The kingdom of God 
is not in word, but in power. That we call the 
gospel with its fruits, that is, doing good works, 
with diligence and fidelity attending to one's busi- 
ness or office, and suffering variously for it. For 
he calls righteousness in general the whole life of a 
Christian with reference to God and man, as the 
tree with its fruits; but not meaning that it is 


therefore entirely perfect, but always improving; 
as he here bids his disciples be always seeking, as 
those who have not yet actually seized it, nor have 
already completely learned and lived it. For iu 
the kingdom of Christ it is with us half sin and 
half holiness. For whatever of faith and of Christ 
is in us, that is altogether pure and perfect, as not 
of our own, but of Christ, who through faith is 
ours, and lives and works in us. But what is still 
our own, that is altogether sin, yet under and in 
Christ covered over and obliterated through for- 
giveness of sin, besides daily through the same 
grace of the Spirit mortified, until we are entirely 
dead to this life. 

See, this belongs to the righteousness of this 
kingdom, that it be upright and no hypocrisy. 
For it is set over against those who talk and boast 
indeed about the gospel, but have nothing of it in 
their life. For it is in fact a hard thing to preach 
the word of God and do good to everybody and 
suffer all kinds of misfortunes besides; but for 
that reason it is called the righteousness of God. 
For the world does not relish it, that it should do 
right and suffer harm for it; this is not a part of 
its way of ruling. For there it is not right that 
he who does right should be punished or suffer 
violence, but should receive gratitude and some 
good as his reward. But our reward is not stored 
away for us upon earth, but in heaven: there we 


will find it. Now he who knows this, and will do 
accordingly, will have enough to do, so that he has 
no need to seek other ways ; and he will probably 
forget also avarice and the cares of nianinion. 
For the world will make it so sour for him that he 
will not care much for life and temporal good, but 
he will become so tired of it that he will have to 
be hourly looking and hoping for death. 

This is the exhortation by which he points us 
from temporal good to eternal treasure, so that we 
may not esteem this good in comparison with the 
one thai we have in heaven, etc. Along with this 
he gives also a promise and a consolation, so that 
we are not to think that he will therefore not give 
us anything at all upon earth and let us die of 
hunger, because we have so much to suifer from 
the world that neither gives nor wishes us anything, 
and we are hourly expecting that all we have shall 
be taken from us ; but we must know that we are 
still also here to have what we need for the re- 
quirements of this life. Therefore he says: Seek 
first the kingdom of God, then all these things 
shall be added unto you ; that is, you shall have 
besides to eat and to driSik and to wear, as an addi- 
tion, without any care of your own, yes, just in 
order that you may not care for those things and 
for God's sake risk everything; and it will come 
to you so that you will not know whence it comes, 
as our daily experience teaches us. For God still 


has SO much in the world that he can alslD feed his 
own, since he feeds all the little birds and wonns,^ 
and clothes the lilies of the field, as we have 
heard, yes, since he giveS and lets grow so much 
for us wicked fellows : so that the world neverthe- 
theless must let us eat and drink with it, although 
this vexes it. 

What more shall we now desire, if we know this, 
if we have and handle God's word, and every one 
does as he should, so that we have enough to eat and 
to drink and wear, and get just as much ourselves as 
a king or emperor, namely, that we feed our belly, 
except that he to suit his rank must have more and 
grander things, but still. does not enjoy anything 
more; and my bread feeds me just as well, and my 
clothes cover and warm me just as well as his royal 
meal and his gold and silver pieces. For how 
should it be possible that he should die of hunger 
who serves God faithfully, and advances his king- 
dom, since he gives in such superfluity to the whole 
world? There would have to be no more bread 
upon earth, or the heavens not be able to rain 
any more, if a Christian should die of hunger; yes, 
God himself must first have died of hunger. 

Since now he has been creating and giving in 
such superabundance, besides has so certainly prom- 
ised that he will grive enough and so give before we 
look for or know it: why will you then torment 
yourself with that hateful caring and avarice? 


Surely the Scriptures (especially the Psalms) are 
full of such passages, that he will feed the pious iu 
the time of fauiiiie, aud never has "seen his seed 
begging bread." He will not prove a liar in your 
case, if you can only believe. If now the world, as 
it is, noblemen, peasants and civilians, does not do 
it, he will still find people, or other means, through 
which he can give, and more than they can now 
take from you. 

V. 34. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the 
morrozu shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient 
unto the day is the evil thereof 

Care for this (he means to say,) how you may 
keep with you the kingdom of God, and renounce 
the other care so completely that you be not con- 
cerned about the morrow. For when the morrow 
conies it will bring its own- care; as we say: Comes 
the day, so comes also the counsel. For our caring 
accomplishes nothing at any rate, though I care for 
only one day; and experience teaches that ofteu 
two or three days slip away from us sooner than to- 
day; and he to whom God is propitious and gives 
success, can often without trouble and care ac- 
complish more in an hour than some one else in 
four whole days with great trouble and care; and 
if he has been long at work and taken great 
pains, making it wearisome to himself, another 
might have accomplished it in an hour; so that no 


one can do anything except when the time comes 
that God gives, granted withont our caring ; and it 
is in vain that you try to anticipate and by your 
caring (as you suppose) do great things^ 

For our Lord God understands the art of secretly 
shortening and lengthening time for us, so that to 
one an hour may become a fortnight, and again in 
such a way that one with long labor and toil gains 
nothing more than another with short and easy 
labor; as one can plainly- see daily, that there are 
many who by hard, constant labor scarcely gain 
their daily bread, and others without special labor 
have so arranged and ordered their affairs that all 
moves easily and they succeed. God does every- 
thing in such a way that our caring does not 
necessarily have the blessing. For we will not 
wait, so that these good things may come to us 
from God, but we want to find them ourselves before 
the gift comes from God. 

See how it is in the mines, where men are busily 
digging and seeking; it still often happens, that 
where one hopes to find the most ore, and where it 
seems as if it was all to become gold, there nothing 
is found, or it breaks off suddenly and disappears. 
Again, in other places, that are regarded as failures 
and neglected, there are unexpectedly the richest re- 
sults; and one, who has invested all his property 
tliere, gets nothing; another from a beggar be- 
comes a lord; and afterwards, those who have 


accumulated many thousand guldens before the 
end of ten years again become beggars, and it does 
not often happen that these large possessions reach 
to the third heir. In short, the motto should be: 
Not sought, but bestowed ; not found, but provi- 
dential, if success and blessing is to come with it. 
But we would like to make it so that it would 
come as we plan; but that amounts to nothing; 
for he thinks, on the other hand: You shall not get 
it so, or at least not keep it long and enjoy it. 
For I have myself known many persons who ran 
their hands into pockets full of guldens, and 
groschens were beneath their notice; but after- 
wards they would have been glad if they 'could 
have found as many pennies. 

Since you now see that there' is no use in it, and 
your caring does not avail, why do you not let it 
alone and turn your thoughts upon having the 
kingdom of God? For he will give to you; but 
not because of your caring, even though you should 
work. For such care accomplishes nothing; but 
the care does that belongs to your office; and to the 
kingdom of God it belongs that you do what is 
commanded you, preach and propagate the word 
of God, serve your neighbor according to your 
calling, and take what God gives you. For those 
are the best possessions that are not thought about, 
but are bestowed and providential; and what we 
have acquired by our caring or are proposing to 


keep, will be likely first of all to fail us and go to 
ruin, as often happens to the rich bellies, whose 
grain and other stores often for their great care are 
ruined; and it is a great grace that God does not 
let us care for it how the grain grows in the field, 
but gives it to us, whilst we are lying and sleep- 
ing; else we would ourselves ruin it for us by our 
caring and would get nothing. 

Therefore he now says : Why will you be con- 
cerned about more than the present day, and load 
upon yourself the trouble of two days? Be content 
with what the present day imposes upon }'ou; 
to-morrow will bring something else^for you. For 
he calls it an evil or plague that we are compelled 
to support ourselves by the sweat of our brow, and 
that we must have other providential daily cares, 
misfortunes and dangers; as, if something be stolen 
from you, or some other harm befall you; also, if 
you become sick, or your domestics, etc., as it 
hapj)ens in this life that we must daily expect and 
see such trouble. Endure this evil, trouble and 
misfortune, and do be content with it, for that is 
enough for you to bear; and drop the anxiety, by 
which you only make the trouble greater and 
heavier than- it is in itself; and look at these illus- 
trations, that God never made any one rich through 
his anxious care, whilst many of them are most 
anxiously caring and yet have nothing. But this ! 
indeed he does, if he sees that one is diligently and 

362 lu-ther's commentary on the 

faithfully attendino;^ to his duty, aud taking care to 
do that so as to please God, and lets God care for 
its success, him he abundantly blesses. For it 
stands written, Prov. x. 4: "The hand of the 
diligent maketh rich." For he wants none of 
those who neither care nor work, like the lazy 
gormandizing bellies, as if they had only to sit and 
wait for him to send a roasted goose into their 
mouth; but his command is, that we honestly lay 
hold and work, then he will be on hand with his 
blessing and give enough. I^et this suffice about 
this sermon. 


V. I. Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what 
judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what meas- 
ure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 

In the previous chapter w^e heard how the Lord 
Christ, in accordance with the doctrine of really 
good works, delivered a long sermon as a warning 
against avarice, as something that greatly hinders 
the kingdom of God, both in doctrine and life, 
and does deadly harm in Christendom. Here he 
now begins to warn further against another thing 
that is also a great, ruinous vice, and is called self- 
conceited-wisdom, that judges and blames every- 
body. For where these two vices rule, there the gos- 
pel cannot abide. For the effect of avarice is either 


that the preachers keep silence, or that the hearers 
pay no regard to the gospel, which thus through 
contempt is disregarded. But if selfish-wisdom be 
conjoined with avarice, then every one claims to 
be the best preacher and himself master; no one 
will hear or learn from others. Then come sects 
and parties that falsify and corrupt the word so 
that it cannot remain pure, and thus again the 
gospel with its fruits is undermined. This is what 
he here now calls judging or passing sentence, 
when every one is satisfied only with what he does 
himself, and whatever others do must stink. A 
beautiful, gracious virtue! and the tip-top man 
whom we call Mr. Selfconceit, who is not liked 
either by God or the world, and yet is to be found 

But, lest we may stumble at this preaching and 
misunderstand it, if hereby it were altogether for- 
bidden to judge and pass sentence, it is clear from 
what has often been said above, that Christ is 
preaching here only to his disciples, and is not at 
all speaking of the judgment or punishment that 
must occur in the world; as father and mother at 
home among the children and servants must judge, 
rebuke, and also chastise, if they will not do right. 
Thus, a prince or a judge, if he means to discharge 
his duty properly, cannot do otherwise than to 
judge and punish. That belongs to secular gov- 
ernment, which has nothing to do with us. There- 


fore we will not interfere with how things should 
go in that sphere. But here we are speaking of 
another kingdom, that does not indeed weaken oj 
annul the other, namely, spiritual life and being 
among Christians; here it is forbidden for one to 
judge and condemn another. For there it occurs 
that the devil always mixes in and carries on his 
business, so that every one thinks well of himself, 
and believes that his way alone must avail and be 
the best, and blames and nullifies ever}thing that 
is not measured by his standard. 

This is now in secular affairs a supreme folly, and 
may be tolerated, though it is wrong, for it is so 
gross that every one understands it; as when a harlot 
imagines herself prettier than all others, and what 
she sees in others does not please her; or that a 
young fool will be so handsome and smart, that he 
does not know his like; and then, among the wise 
and learned, where this is very much in vogue, so 
that no one admits the value of anything that an- 
other knows or does, and every one claims to be the 
only one that can do everything better, and finds 
fault with everybod^^ Everybody sees and under- 
stands this very well; yet everywhere is this Mr. 
Selfconceit, who knows himself to be so smart, that 
he can bridle the horse by the tail, when all the 
rest of the world must bridle it by the mouth. 

But when this occurs among us in spiritual 
affairs, and the devil sows his seed in the kingdom 


of Christ, so that it takes hold both of doctrine and 
life, then comes serious trouble. In the matter of 
doctrine the result is, that, although God has given 
and entrusted it to some one to preach the gospel, 
others are found, even among the disciples, who 
assume to know it ten times better than he, and 
the gospel must have the worry and misfortune to 
be judged by everybody, and every one becomes a 
doctor, and claims to be himself a master in doc- 
trine; just as happened to Moses, Numbers xvi., 
when Korah with his crowd rose up against him 
and said: "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all 
the congregation are holy. Should God speak 
alone through Moses and Aaron ?" — just as they say 
now: Should we not just as well have the Spirit 
and understand the Scriptures as others? Then 
there- is at once another doctrine dished up and 
sects started, and judging begins and denouncing, 
and especially the shameful slandering that one 
party most bitterly blames and misrepresents the 
other; as we learn now very well through experi- 
ence. Hence follows the deadly harm that Chris- 
tendom is divided and the pure doctrine every- 
where suffers wreck. 

This Christ dreaded, yes not only dreaded, but 
also foretold, that such would be the case. For 
nothing else can be made out of the world, even 
if we were to preach ourselves to death. There- 
fore, wherever the gospel flourishes, there parties 


and sects must follow, that again spoil and check 
it. The reason is: the devil must sow his seed 
among the good seed, and where God builds a 
church, he builds a chapel or a tabernacle along- 
side. For Satan wants to be always among the 
children of God, as the Scriptures say. Therefore 
Christ means hereby to warn his apostles and sincere 
preachers to guard themselves diligently against 
this vice, and to see to it that they do not let it come 
in to create separation and disunion, especially in 
doctrine ; as though he meant to say: If you wish 
to be my disciples, then let your understanding 
and opinions in doctrine be alike and of one kind, 
so that no one may wish to be master, and know 
something new or better, and judge or condemn 
the rest; and do not pay special regard to persons, 
but abide by what I command you to preach, and 
be of one accord, so that one does not despise the 
other, or start something new. 

Yet understand it so, that still it is not forbidden 
to him who is officially appointed to preach, to 
judge in regard to doctrine, besides also in regard 
to life. For it is his official duty publicly to re- 
buke what is not in accordance with the true doc- 
trine, just for the reason that he may not allow 
sects to enter and arise; in like manner, when he 
sees that one is not living aright, that he also re- 
buke and warn. For he is there for the reason 
that he may look into this, and he must answer for 


it Yes, every Christian, if he sees his iieio^hbor 
doing wrong, is bound to reprove him and put him 
on his guard. And this cannot be done without 
judging. But all this is done by virtue of one's 
office or authority, about which Christ is not here 
speaking; as has been sufficiently stated. 

But this is forbidden, that every one take his 
own way for it and make a doctrine and spirit of 
his own, and imagine himself to be Mr. Extra- 
wise and undertake to master and rebuke every- 
body, nothing of which has been committed to 
him. These are the ones whom Christ here re- 
bukes. For he means that nothing should be 
undertaken or done from one's own notion without 
being commanded, especially as to the judging of 
other people. That I now call judging in doctrine, 
one of the highest, most disgraceful and dangerous 
vices upon earth, from which all the factious spirits 
have arisen, and of which hitherto monks, priests, 
and all that were in the papacy, were guilty of, 
when every one asserted that his matter was the 
best and denounced others; of which there is now 
no need to speak. 

The other kind of judging is that regarding the 
life, when one blames and condemns the life and 
works of another, and is not pleased with anything 
that others do; that is indeed a widely diffused, 
common vice. Now we are under strict orders, so 
that, just as in regard to doctrine we are to be of 

368 luthrr'vS commentary on the 

one iiiiiid and understanding or faith: so also we 
are to be disposed alike and to have the same sort of 
heart in external life, although that cannot be all 
of the same kind as in the case of f^iith. For, 
since there are many kinds of callings, the works 
of them must be unlike and of various kinds. 
Besides, in this life, that is in itself of various kinds, 
we find also faults of many kinds, as, some very 
strange, irascible, impatient people; as it cannot 
but be among Christian people, since our old 
Adam is not yet dead, and the flesh is always 
striving against the spirit. 

Here comes in play now a virtue which is called 
tolerantia and re?mssw peccatoriim^ so that one 
bears with another, has patience with and forgives 
him;, as St. Paul so beautifully teaches, Rom. xv. 
I, We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities 
of the weak, and not to please oiirselves; just as 
Christ says here: Judge not, etc., so that those who 
have high and better gifts in Christendom, (as 
some must have, especially the preachers,) still they 
may not take on any different airs or think them- 
selves any better than those who do not have them: 
so that in spiritual matters no one should lord it 
over others. Externally there must be a difference, 
a prince higher and better than a farmer, a preacher 
more learned than an ordinary mechanic; thus a 
master cannot be a servant, a mistress be a maid, 
etc., but nevertheless in this distinction the hearts 


are to be similar]}' disposed and pay no regard to 
that dissimilarity. 

This is done if I bear with my neighbor, al- 
though he be of a lower rank and have fewer gifts 
than I, and I am just as well pleased with his work, 
in attending as my house-servant to my horse, as 
with my own, being a preachei or ruler of land and 
people, although mine is better and of more im- 
portance than his. For I must not look at the 
outward masks, but that he lives in the same faith 
and in Christ, and has just as much from the grace, 
baptism and sacrament, although I have a different, 
higher work and office. For God is all the same, 
who does and gives all this, and is just as much 
pleased with the smallest as with the very greatest. 

In contrast with this there is ruling in the 
world the praiseworthy, beautiful virtue of which 
St. Paul speaks, that every one pleases himself, as, 
if a man comes along in the devil's name, and can- 
not look at his own vices, but only at those of 
others; which adheres to us all by nature, and of 
which we cannot be rid, even though we are bap- 
tized, so that we are fond of beautifying and adorn- 
ing ourselves and seeing what is good in ourselves, 
and flattering ourselves with it as if it were our 
own; and, in order that we may alone be beautiful, 
we do not look at that which is g-ood in our neiq-h- 
bor; but, leaving that out of view, if we notice a 
little pimple, we fill our eyes with it, and make it 


SO large, that we see nothing good on acconnt of 
it, although he may have eyes like a falcon and a 
face like an angel. Just as if I saw some one in a 
golden garment, and there were perhaps a seam or 
a white thread drawn through it, and I would 
thereupon look amazed, as if it were on that af- 
count to be despised, and' I on the other hand con- 
gratulate myself upon my coarse blouse, with a 
golden patch upon it. So we do not look at our 
own vices, of which we are full, yet cannot see 
anything good in other people. If now this natural 
evil habit finds its way among Christians, there we 
begin to judge, so that I readily despise and con- 
demn another if he stumbles a little or is faulty, 
and he again does the same to me, measures me 
with the same measure, (as Christ here says,) seeks 
for and rebukes also only the worst that he can 
find about me. Thereby love is quite suppressed, 
and there remains only a biting and devouring of 
one another until they entirely eat each other up 
and altogether lose their Christianity. 

The same is the case if one looks at the life of 
another, and will not look at himself, then one 
soon finds something that displeases him ; another 
finds the same also in us; just as the heathen com- 
plain about affairs among them, that no one sees 
what he carries on his own back, but he who 
comes after him sees it very well ; that is, no one 
sees where he himself is lacking, but he soon sees 


it in another. If one looks at other people in this 
way, the only result is a slandering and judging 
of one another. The devil instigates this among 
Christians, and carries it on to such an extent that 
there is nothing left among them but harsh judg- 
ing in regard to the way of living, as also in re- 
gard to doctrine ; so that the kingdom of Christ 
(which is a harmonious and peaceable kingdom, 
both in doctrine and life) is divided, and in place 
of it the spirit of sectism, arrogance and contempt 

Therefore it is highly necessary that we be 
warned to learn and habituate ourselves to bear 
with, cover over and adorn our neighbor's faults, 
i-f we have attended to our own official duty, 
whether it be preaching and publicly rebuking, or 
fraternally exhorting (of which Matthew xviii. 
teaches) ; and if I see anything in my neighbor 
that does not altogether please me, that I turn and 
look at myself, when I will also find much that 
does not please other people, and which I would 
be glad to have excused and borne with ; thus the 
itching will soon subside that tickles itself and is 
amused at the faults of others, and Mr. Self-con- 
ceit will scamper off and drop his judging. Yes, 
you will be glad, so that you may soon settle the 
matter with your neighbor and first of all say: 
Ivord, forgive me my debt ; and then say to your 
neighbor : If you have sinned against me, or I 
against you, now let us forgive each other. 


But if you see that he is quite too discourteous, 
and will not cease without your rebukin<^- him, 
then go and tell him himself about it, as it is now 
and often has been said, (Matt, xviii.) that he may 
reform aud desist. That is not judging and con- 
demning, but fraternally exhorting to betterment, 
and in this way the exhortation would be made in 
a peaceable way, according to God's command. 
Otherwise, with your tickling, ridiculing and 
mocking, you only embitter your neighbor against 
you, and harden him, and )ou yourself become 
much worse than he is, and twice as great a sinner, 
by withdrawing your love from him and taking 
pleasure in his sin, and besides you expose yourself 
to the judgment of God, and condemn him whom 
God has not condemned, and thus invoke upon 
yourself so much the heavier judgment, which 
Christ here gives warning of, and you deserve that 
God should the more surely condemn you. 

See, this shameful evil all comes, as St. Paul 
says, from our pleasing ourselves, playing and toy- 
ing with our gifts as if they were our own; but see- 
ing nothing in another except where he is faulty, 
and thus becoming entirely blind, so that we see 
neither ourselves nor our neighbor aright. When 
we should look into our own bosom and see first 
wherein we fail, that we do not do; but we have a 
blearness before our eyes, so that we think ourselves 
good-looking, if we observe a gift in ourselves that 


our neighbor has not, and by that very thing are 
spoiled, and we also do not see in our neighbor what 
is good in him, for we should alwa}S find as much of 
that as we now see of his faults. We should also 
be pleased with what is good in him and make due 
allowance, if there be some faultiness in it; as we 
please ourselves and readily apologize for ourselves. 
In short, it is the worst vice and a devilish 
pride, that we are self-satisfied and merry if we see 
or feel a good trait in ourselves, and do not thank 
God for it, but become proud, and despise others, 
anc^have our eyes so completely filled with it that 
we do not care what else we do, thinking we are 
all right : we plunder and rob God thus of his 
honor, make an idol out of ourself, and do not see 
our trouble that we thereby occasion; for we would 
have enough else upon us, if we would look at it 
aright, as Apocalypse iii. 17, says' to a bishop who 
thought himself more learned than others : Thou 
sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and 
have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou 
art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, 
and naked. For although it is true that thy gift 
is greater than that of another; as it must be, 
since thine office is different, higher and greater: 
but with the disgraceful addendum that thou dis- 
playest thyself in it, and thus pleasest thyself, thou 
dost totally ruin it, and makest the same high 
ornament viler than the faults of all others. 


For the greater the gifts are, the more disgrace- 
fully are they perverted if you make an idol out of 
them, just as if you were to mix poison with excel- 
lent malmsey-wine. Thus you have now hit it 
admirably well, that you judge another on account 
of a small fault, and fall yourself with your self- 
esteem into the grievous sin; that you are ungrateful 
to God, yes, enthrone yourself in his place in }our 
heart, and interfere with his jurisdiction, where one 
sin is weightier than those of all other men; be- 
sides, you become insolent toward your neighbor 
and so thoroughly blind that you no longer ^an 
know or look at God, your neighbor, or yourself. 

What else do you accomplish by this judging 
than that you invoke the judgment of God against 
yourself? So that he reasonably must say to you : 
I did not bestow these gifts upon you in order that 
you might despise your neig'hbor and serve your- 
self with them, but that you should serve your 
neighbor, who is poor and frail, and me. But you 
go on, and never once thank me for them, as if all 
had sprung from your own heart, and you employ 
my own gift against me and your neighbor, and 
make a tyrant of yourself, a jailor and judge against 
your neighbor, whom you ought in love to bear 
with, to improve and to lift up if he should fall. 
What will you then answer when he thus will ad- 
dress you (as he here gives you timely notice), 
except that this sentence is justly pronounced 


against you, that you are making not a mote, as 
you perhaps see in your neighbor's eye, (as Christ 
here says,) but a great beam out of a little mote. 

I will say nothing about the fact that, with this 
wretched judging you are not only culpable ou 
account of the act itself; but it usually happens 
that he who thus judges is himself a greater sinner 
than others; so that, if he were to go back and read 
his own record and register, how he has lived from 
his youth up, he would hear a story that would 
make him shudder, and which he would be glad to 
have unnoticed by other people. 

But now every one takes it for granted that he is 
pious, and wants to forget all the past, and blame 
and condemn a poor man who has once sinned. 
Thus he is involved in a double calamity, that he 
disreg^ards his earliest life and forgets what he was; 
he does not think how it would have grieved him 
if he had been ridiculed and condemned. That is 
one sin, that he is ungrateful, and has forgotten 
the forgiveness of sins, the grace and all the good- 
ness of God. The other, that he loses his piety 
and sets in array against himself all his former 
sins, by the very fact that he makes a display of 
himself in his piety, and becomes seven times 
worse than before. 

For, do you not think that God can lay a list 
before your nose, and present not only your crimes 
and the sins of your youth, but also your whole 

3/6 Luther's commentary on the 

life that yon have regarded as excellent? as now 
the recluse life of the monks; how will you then 
stand and answer for daily blaspheming and cruci- 
fying his Son with your masses and other idolatries? 
That's the wa}- it goes, if we forget what we have 
been, we may then well judge others. But the 
orders are: Jack, take yourself by your own nose, 
and reach into your own bosom; if you want to 
seek and judge a scamp you'll find the greatest 
scamp upon earth, so that you will readily forget 
other people and be glad at once to let them alone. 
For you will never find in another as much sin as 
in yourself For if }ou do see many in another, 
you see only a year or two; in yourself, however, 
your whole life, especially the dark spots of which 
others know nothing, so that you mnst be ashamed 
of yourself See, that would be a good cure for 
the shameful vice, that you do not please your- 
self but pray God to forgive you and otliers. 

Secondly, that, although you see something bad 
in your neighbor, you are not on that account to 
despise and condemn him; but on the other hand 
to see his good things, and with your own good 
things and gifts to help, cover over, adorn and 
advise him; and 3-ou should know that, although 
you were the holiest and most pious, yet you 
would become the very worst if you judge another. 
For your gifts were not bestowed upon you that 
you may tickle yourself with them, but that you 


may help your neighbor with them, if he needs it, 
so that with your strength you may bear his weak- 
ness, may cover and adorn his sin and shame with 
your piety and honor, as God through Christ has 
done to you and still does daily. If you will not 
do that, and will tickle yourself with them and 
despise others: then know this, if another in your 
presence has a mote in his eye, you towards him, 
before God, have a beam in your own. 

So you see why Christ speaks so sharply against 
this vice and pronounces the strict sentence : He 
who judges, shall be judged; as is also reasonable. 
For, since you interfere with God's judgment, and 
condemn those whom God has not condemned, you 
give him reason again to damn you to hell with 
your whole life, although you had been ever so 
pious, and to raise to honor the neighbor whom 
you judged and condemned, and besides also to 
make him a judge over you, and cause him to find 
ten times as much in you to condemn as you found 
in him. So you have made a pretty muss of it, 
that you have angered and turned against you both 
God and your neighbor; and thus you lose at the 
same time both the grace of God and Christian 
life, and become worse than a heathen, who knows 
nothing about God, 

V. 3-5. ll-^/iy beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother'' s 
eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye ? Or 
how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out 


of thine eye, and behold a beam is in thine ozaji eye? Thou 
hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then 
shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. 

In order that he may the more diligently warn 
us to guard against this vice, he uses a simple com- 
parison and sets it clearly before us, saying that 
every one who judges his neighbor has a great 
beam in his eye, whilst he who is judged has only 
a mote ; that he is ten times more deserving of 
judgment and condemnation, for the very reason 
that he condemns others. This is indeed a terrible, 
dreadful sentence. Where are now the factious 
spirits and Messrs. Wiseacres, who are great at 
mastering and finding fault with the Bible, and can 
do nothing else than to judge us and others? — when 
there is yet nothing to blame, or perhaps they dis- 
cover a mote in us, for which they bitterly accuse 
us; as now the papists revile. When they try their 
best, and adduce great reason forjudging and con- 
demning us, this is the greatest, that some of ours 
hold ecclesiastical properties; or they accuse us of 
not fasting, and of whatever else that has any sem- 
blance of involving some faults. But they cannot 
notice their beam, that they persecute the gospel, 
murder the innocent on account of it, whilst they 
are themselves the great arch-robbers and thieves 
of monasteries and church properties. 

For what robberies are not now committed by 
pope, bishops and princes? they are doing as they 


please with all the spiritual establishments ; but 
[they maintain] that no one else is a real bishop, nor 
has his own with God and honor, and holds his seat 
as a thief and a robber: and yet all [with them] must 
be excellent, and not be called stolen or robbed. 
But, that we do not fast, or so strictly observe their 
style of righteousness, which they yet do not them- 
selves observe, this must be alone evil, and all their 
sin and shame be pious and honorable. Thus it is 
throughout the world, that everywhere a beam 
judges the mote, and a great rogue condemns a 
small one. 

Now it is true that we are not without faults, 
yes, no Christian will get so far as to be without a 
mote. For St. Paul himself could not do it, as he 
complains in the seventh of Romans; and all 
Christendom must daily pray: Forgive us our 
debts, and it confesses the article of the Creed that 
is called the forgiveness of sins. But these beam- 
carriers and mote-judges will not endure this arti- 
cle, and will have everything so pure that there 
may be no want or fault in it ; and as soon as they 
see anything of this kind, they fall to judging and 
condemning, as if they were so holy as not to need 
any forgiveness of sins or any praying; they want 
to reform the Lord's Prayer and obliterate the 
chief article of the Creed, whilst they are com- 
pletely full of blindness and devils, and have heart- 
grief over the motes of other people; and among 


ourselves, if we too become foolish, those who are 
full of vices and wickedness cannot cease looking 
at and condemning the small vices of others, so 
that the beam is master and judge of the mote. 

But he who is a Christian must know (and will 
surely himself feel) that we cannot get along so 
faultlessly, without the mote, and the article of the 
forgiveness of sins must daily rule in us. There- 
fore one can easily excuse the faults of other peo- 
ple, and include them in the Lord's Prayer, when 
he says: Forgive us, as we forgive, etc., especially 
if he sees that one loves and esteems the word, and 
does not despise or abuse it. For where that is, 
there is the kingdom of Christ and full forgiveness, 
by which the mote is consumed. Therefore we 
should not despise or condemn any one, if we ob- 
serve this; or we shall also make of our own mote 
a beam, so that we also do not receive forgiveness, 
because we are not willing to forgive others. 

Thus you say: Shall I then not rebuke if I see 
that wrong is done, or am I to call it right and 
sanction it? Or am I to be pleased that they seize 
the monastic properties, or live so coarsely, do not 
pray, or fast, etc. No; that is not what I mean. 
For he confesses here that there is a mote, and that 
it is to be taken away. But he teaches you how 
to go about it properly. I must say it is indeed 
not pleasant, the mote in the eye; but that I must 
see to it first of all that I do not have a beam in my 


own eye and first take that out. First make the 
rogue in your own breast pious, then add to this, 
that the small one also becomes pious. For it is 
of no account that the great thieves hang the small 
ones, (as we say,) and great rogues condemn the 
little ones. If the pope with his followers would 
begin here and they would first sweep before their 
own door, that they would not themselves be arch- 
thieves and scoundrels, we would also have to 
follow suit, or suffer for it. But now they will not 
let go their beam, and will have it unrebuked, and 
they condemn us because we still have a mote, and 
do not keep ourselves as pure as we should; and 
the result is, that the great heretic, the pope, con- 
demns the other little heretics, and the great 
thieves, that are openly and continually stealing 
and robbing, must make the little thieves pious, 
and hang and pay for them. 

This perverted business shall not exist in my 
kingdom (says Christ), but thus [it shall be], that 
you first make pious the great rogue that you will 
find in your own skin, if you properly look at 
yourself; afterwards, if you have accomplished 
this, you can easily make pious a little rogue. 
But you will be astonished at the trouble you will 
find with the great rogue, so that I may readily 
become security to you, and give my head as a 
pledge, that you will never get so far as to remove 
the mote from another's eye, and must say: Must I 


first deal with other people and make them pious? 
Why, I cannot make myself pious, or become rid 
of the beam ; and thus your brother's mote will 
not be apt to be disturbed by you. See, this is 
what Christ means to say, that one should gladly 
forgive another and patiently bear with him, and 
all should show humility towards one another ; as 
it would necessarily be if we would obey this 
teaching. Thus everything would move along 
nicely in Christendom, in true harmony, and God 
would be with us. But the devil prevents it from 
coming to this by means of his adherents and 
rebellious spirit. 

And it ought to make us dread this vice, that he 
holds up before us such a dreadful decision, as I 
have said, that always he who judges has before 
God a beam in his eye ; and the other, who is 
judged, only a mote. Now the beam is immeas- 
arably a greater sin than the mote, that is, such a 
sin as completely condemns us, and for which 
there is no mercy. For however great otherwise 
our sins and faults may be, he can forgive them 
all ; as he shows by this, that he calls the sin of 
the neighbor a mote. But this is the shameful ad- 
dition and vileness, that ruins everything, that 
you judge and condemn another on account of his 
faults, and do not forgive as you wish that God 
should forgive you ; you go along and will not see 
this beam, thinking that you are without sin. 


But if you know yourself (as was said), you would 
also avoid judging your neighbor, and thus also 
your beam would be small and be called a mote, 
and attain forgiveness of sin, and you would also 
gladly forgive and bear with and excuse the mote 
of another, in view of the fact that God forgives 
and excuses your beam for you. 

But it is rightly called a beam in the eye, that 
makes a man completely stone and cataract-blind, 
and which the world cannot see or judge. Yes, it 
is adorned with such a show that the world sup- 
poses it to be a, splendid affair and great holiness ; 
and just as Christ before said concerning the evil 
eye, that the avaricious kindle for themselves a 
light, and imagine a happy thought, that it must 
not be called greediness, but divine worship; so it 
is here also, that those vAio have the beam will for- 
sooth have no beam or be rebuked, as being blind 
and miserable people, but praised as those who 
with true Christian intent judge the doctrine and 
life of others: as the factious spirits can admirably 
boast and swear that they do not teach otherwise 
out of any pride or envy, but they seek only God's 
glory and their neighbor's welfare, they make it so 
beautiful and clear, and their humility and regard 
for God's honor is so great that they see nothing else 
than that. Thus it is also in life, if people begin 
to judge and blame one another; then we see the 
same covering-over and boasting; I do it not from 


eiiinit}- to the person, but from love for righteous- 
ness. The person I am favorable to, but the cause 
I oppose. That tickles then so gently under the 
beautiful show, that one is never aware of any 

But it is all wrong for you to judge and decide 
yourself, as you choose, without the word and com- 
mand of God, and then call it God's honor and 
righteousness; but it is a devilish addition, that 
ornaments itself with such a covering and beauti- 
fies itself. For here you hear, that God will not 
allow us to undertake to be judges, either in doc- 
trine or life; but where judging or rebuking is nec- 
essary, that those do it who are officially com- 
manded to do it, preachers, pastors in spiritual 
affairs, and civil authorities in worldly government; 
or a brother with a brother, solely from brotherly 
love, that bears with and corrects the faults of our 

V. 6. Give 7iot that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast 
ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample thein under theit 
feet, and turn again and rend you. 

The Lord Christ has now nearly finished his in- 
structions in regard to the fruits and works that 
follow his teaching, and now begins a warning or 
exhortation to put us on our guard against other 
teaching; as he also exhorts his apostles, when he 
sends them forth to preach, and says: Behold, I 


send you forth as sheep among- wolves; therefore 
be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves. For 
a Christian, who is to minister the word of God 
and preach, and confess it in his life, truly lives in 
a dangerous calling, on account of the people, and 
has great reason for impatience, since the world is 
so dreadfully wicked, and he lives in it as among- 
serpents and all sorts of vermin. Therefore sa-\-s 
he : Beware that ye cast not your holy things be- 
fore swine and dogs. For they might trample 
them under foot, or turn against and rend you; 
meaning thereby to show and teach them that 
whenever they come and preach in public before 
the masses, they will also find dogs and swine, that 
do nothing else than trample upon the gospel and 
then also persecute the preachers. 

Who are they then that trample upon our holy 
things and turn against us? This happens now 
again in two things, doctrine and life. For first 
of all the false teachers do it, who take and learn 
our gospel from us and thus get our jewel and 
precious treasure, in which we have been baptized, 
live and boast ourselves, etc., and then go to their 
own haunts and begin to preach against us, and 
turn their snouts and teeth against us; as now our 
swarm of sectaries, that formerly kept very still 
when the pope was raging and ruling, so that one 
did not hear them peep; but now, since we opened 
the way and with great danger to ourselves freed 


them from the tyranny of the pope, and they have 
heard onr doctrine and can imitate ns in preaching, 
they go and turn against us and are onr worst ene- 
mies upon earth, and nobody has preached as badly 
as we, without whom they would have known 
nothing about it. 

Secondly, in the matter of living it is all the 
same, especially among us, where people despise or 
have become tired of the gospel, and it has already 
gone so far that they will hardly sustain a preacher 
any more; especially squire Greedy-jack in the 
country, who monopolizes all the propert}- and sup- 
ports the preachers in such a way that they lose 
all appetite for preaching, and he makes servants 
out of them, so that they must preach and do 
what he chooses. He is followed by Squire Skin- 
flint in town, and Mr. Everybody, who act as if 
t-liey did not want to have any gospel or word of 
God, and yet owe to us their freedom from the 
tyranny of the pope and all other good things that 
t-hey have. But now they would like to drive us 
along with the gospel out of the country, or to 
starve us. 

Well, we cannot make it otherwise, we must en- 
dure it, that these snakes, dogs and hogs are about 
us, that are abusing the gospel, both as to teaching 
and living; and where there are preachers of the 
right kind, they must always be treated in this 
way. For this is the fortune of the gospel in the 


world; and if it ever happens again, (as I have often 
predicted, and fear it may only too soon happen,) 
that such people as the .popes and bishops reign, 
then it will be completely put out of the way and 
trampled under foot, and its preachers will be gone. 
For the gospel must be everybody's floor-cloth, so 
that all the world may walk over it and trample 
upon it, together with its preachers and disciples. 

What are we now to do about it? Cast it not 
(says Christ) before swine and dogs. Yes, dear 
Lord, they already have it. For, since it is pub- 
licly preached, we cannot prevent their falling in 
with it and seizing it. But they still do not really 
have it, and we'll prevent them (thank God !) from 
getting that which is holy ; the shells and husks 
they may indeed have, that is, carnal liberty ; but 
let none of them, whether dog or hog, a greedy- 
jack, or miser, or peasant, get a letter of the gospel, 
although he may read all the books, and hear all 
the sermons, and have the notion that he thor- 
oughly understands it. 

Therefore the right thing for us to do, as Christ 
here teaches, is for us, when we see such a hog or 
dog before us, to separate ourselves from him as 
we do from these factious spirits, and to have no 
fellowship with them, and administer no sacra- 
ment to them, impart no gospel consolation to 
them, but show them that they are not to enjoy 
anything of Christ, our treasure. If we do this, 

388 luthhr's commentary on the 

we have completely withheld from them the pearls" 
and that which is holy. For no skin-flint or boor, 
fanatic or captions spirit, shall get the gospel and 
Christ from me unless he beforehand asks me 
about it and coincides with me, so that I, or any 
proper preacher, may say yes to it. For hp who has 
the gospel aright, must surely hold it with ns and 
be of one mind, in case we are sure, in advance, 
that we have the true gospel and the pearls. 
Therefore he must surely not trample ns under 
foot as Squire Greedy-jack, nor condemn us as the 
sectaries, nor despise us as the peasants, in towns 
and villages ; but hold the dear word in honor, as 
well as all that preach and gladly hear it. If not, 
let us regard them as hogs and dogs, and tell them 
that they shall get nothing from us ; meanwhile 
let them read and hear and call themselves evan- 
gelical, if they will, as I have to do with some 
miserly fellows and towns. For this is certain, he 
who despises the ministerial office will not have 
much regard for the gospel. Since then they 
trample under foot the preachers and pastors, and 
treat them more shamefully than the peasants do 
their swine, we take back again to ourselves our 
pearls, and we will see what they will have of the 
gospel without any thanks to us. If you can 
trample God's word and his preachers under foot, 
he can trample you too under foot. 

This now Christ means to say : If you see that 


people will despise your preaching and trample it 
under foot, then have no fellowship with them and 
get away from them ; as he also says in the eigh- 
teenth of Matthew : If he neglect to hear thee and 
the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man 
and a publican; in such a way that we say to them 
that they are not Christians, but damned heathen, 
and we will not have anything preached to them 
or let them have any part of our good things, as 
Peter, in the eighth of Acts, says to Simon Magus. 
This is the way that I do, and all that preach the 
gospel in earnest, lest we make ourselves partakers 
of their sins. For God will not have us to play 
the hypocrite in this way with our sectaries, as if 
they were right in their teaching ; but we must 
regard them as enemies, as separated from them 
with gospel, baptism, sacrament and all their way 
of teaching and living. Thus we must also say to 
our own people, if they wish to have part in the 
gospel, that they must everywhere not despise us^ 
but give practical proof that they are in earnest 
with it, and at least that they hold the word and 
sacrament in honor and submit to it with humil- 

Yes, (they say,) in this way they want to get 
into power again, and put themselves again into a 
position of authority, like that hitherto occupied 
by the pope; this would be unendurable, and we 
might rather have remained under the pope. An- 


swer: Yes, indeed, I have myself been much con- 
•cerued lest that ma}' be the result. But the way 
that they are taking, by despising and trampling 
upon them [the preachers of the word] is not the 
way to accomplish what they are aiming at, viz. : 
to prevent the tyranny of the pastors, but just the 
right beginning to effect it For if these are out of 
the way, whom they have trampled under foot and 
driven off, they will still not be able to be without 
pastors or preachers. For Christ will maintain his 
rule in the world, so that still his gospel, baptism, 
sacrament must abide. Although no prince were 
willing to protect it, he will do it, since the Father 
has placed him at his right hand, and means that 
he is to be I^ord. Even if they now drive off all 
the pastors, they will not hurl Christ from his 
throne. Therefore this will happen to them: be- 
cause they will not have nor endure the upright, 
pious preachers, God will make for them others 
who will force them and tyrannize over them, 
worse than before. 

Therefore they are on the right track, our Greedy- 
jacks and others, who put their heads together and 
think they will silence us and compel us to submit 
to them, not knowing that another One is sitting 
up there who reigns supreme, and says: If you 
will not have right preachers, then have the devil 
with his preachers, who preach lies to you; these 
you must accept, and besides be ruled and tor- 



niented by them; as those parts of our Geriiiany 
are now already suffering, where they not only 
refuse the gospel but are persecuting it, so that 
they have all their corners full of sectaries, fanatics 
and anabaptists, and cannot prevent it. 

But the right way to prevent this is to embrace 
the gospel earnestly and faithfully, beseech God 
that he may send true, faithful workmen into his 
harvest ; then there need be no fear. For these 
preachers would not oppress or force us, or do us 
any harm in body or soul, but help everybody and 
do all the good possible; as has been learned in re- 
gard to ourselves, who may well boast before God 
and the world, that we have not sought any au- 
thority or advantage for ourselves, but have served 
all the world with our body and life ; we have 
neither encumbered nor harmed anybody, but have 
gladly helped everybody, also in temporal things, 
and besides have suffered for it manifold danger, 
violence and persecution. But, since they don't 
want us any more, may God grant that others 
come after us who will treat them differently, op- 
press, torment and skin them, so that they may see 
what they had in us, and they must suffer it from ' 
those whom they now do not look at and would 
not like to have as stable servants. For they de- 
serve nothing better than to have these tyrants 
whom they must fear, as they had the pope ; he 
was the rig-ht sort of a ruler for them. Our 


cranky princes, too, have already learned it, and 
think they would like to be rid of compnlsion and 
no longer fear the pope ; they begin to protect the 
priests, but not for their sake, but that they may 
force them into subjection to themselves, so that 
they may live by their favor, and they protect 
them in such fashion that they should rather come 
over to us, whom they regard as enemies, than to 
allow themselves to be plucked by them, under 
the name of protection. But it cannot be other- 
wise, and the)- are both rightly served. 

But it must not be so among Christians, but up- 
right, pious people should hold their pastors and 
preachers in high honor, with all humility and 
love, for the sake of Christ and his word, and have 
great regard for them as a precious gift and jewel, 
bestowed by God, better than all worldly treasures 
and possessions. In like manner also true, pious 
preachers will seek with all fidelity nothing else 
than the advantage and welfare of all people, 
without burdening them at all either in their con- 
sciences, or even outwardly in temporal affairs or 
bodily matters. But let him who despises them 
know that he is no Christian, and has again lost 
the treasure. We preach to and exhort everybody 
who will give heed to and join with us; but those 
who will not, and yet with the semblance and 
name of the gospel or Christian fellowship despise 
us, and will tread us under foot, against these we 


employ the artifice of letting them have the sem- 
blance, but in fact taking all back to ourselves, so 
that they have nothing at all left. For we are 
commanded to separate ourselves from them, al- 
though we are not glad to do it, and would rather 
that they should remain with us ; but as they will 
not, we must let them go, and not on their account 
let our treasure perish or be trodden under foot by 

V. 7-1 1. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall 
find; knock, and it shall be opetied unto you. For every one 
that asketh receivcth; and he that seckethfindeth; and to him 
■ that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there 0/ you, 
whotn if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or 
if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being 
evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much 
more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to 
them which ask him? 

After the Lord Christ had taught his disciples, 
and established the office of the ministry, so that 
they might know what they were to preach and 
how they were to live, he here adds an exhortation 
to prayer; he means hereby to teach that prayer 
next to preaching is the principal work of a Chris- 
tian, as something always belonging to a sermon; 
and to show that nothing is more necessary in Chris- 
tendom, (because we have so many temptations 
and hindrances,) than that we continue without 
ceasing in prayer, that God may give his grace and 
Spirit, that the gospel may become efficient and be 


ill constant use by ourselves and others. Therefore 
God in tlie prophet Zechariah (as above quoted) 
promised that he would pour out upon Christians a 
spirit of grace and of supplication; he comprehends 
thus in these two things the whole of Christiauity. 
Thus he now means to say: I have instructed 
you, that you may know how you ought to live 
aright and against what you should be on your 
guard. Now a necessary part of this is that you 
also pray, and confidently persevere with seeking 
and knocking, not becoming sluggish or weary in 
regard to it. For there will be need of begging, 
seekino- and knocking-. For although both doctrine 
and practice have rightly begun, yet there will be 
no want of faults and offenses, that daily hinder 
and obstruct us, so that we cannot advance, and 
against which we continually contend with all our 
powers, but without any stronger defense than 
prayer, so that if we do not use this it is not possi- 
ble for us to maintain our ground and remain 
Christians; as we can see very plainly now what 
kind of hindrances resist the progress of the gospel; 
but we see, too, that we are not making much ac- 
count of prayer, and taking it for granted that this 
warning and exhortation does not apply to us, and 
that we do not now need to pray, since the useless 
chattering and muttering of rosaries and other 
idolatrous little prayers has ceased; which is not a 
good sign, and it is to be feared that much misfor- 


tune will overtake us that we might have been able 
to prevent. 

Therefore every Christian should heed this ex- 
hortation, first, as a command, just as well as the 
previous statement: Judge not, etc., is a command, 
and he should know that he is in duty bound to 
practice this Christian work, and not to do as that 
peasant, who said that he gave his preacher grain, 
so that he should pray for him; as some think: Of 
what account is my prayer? If I do not pray, 
others do ; so that we should not think it does not 
concern us, or that it depends upon our choice, 
about which I have often more fully treated else- 

Secondly, you have here the consolatory promise 
and rich assurance which he adds concerning 
prayer, that one may see that it is of consequence 
to him, and may learn to regard our prayer as dear 
and precious before God, since he so earnestly ex- 
horts us to engage in it, so kindly invites and 
promises that we shall not ask in vain ; and if 
we had no other cause or inducement than this 
friendly, rich word, this ought to be enough to 
drive us to do it. I will be silent as to how earn- 
estly he exhorts and commands [us to engage in 
it] and how heartily we need it. 

Besides, as if this were not enough, as we aside 
from this, for own great need's sake, should our- 
selves engage in it, he adds a most beautiful com- 


parison (the more to stimulate us) of every father in 
reference to liis son, who although he may be a 
worthless wretch, yet, if he ask for a fish, he will 
not give him a serpent, etc. Hence he infers this 
comforting word: If ye can do this, who are not of 
a good sort, and have not a vein in you that is good 
towards God, how then should not God, your Heav- 
enly Father, whose nature is altogether good, not 
also give to you what is good if you ask him for 
it? This is the very highest appeal wherewith he 
ought to or can persuade any one to prayer, if we 
only would look at these words and la\' them to 

Now what the need is, for which he gives this 
exhortation, and which should urge us to pray, has 
been mentioned, so that, if we have the word of 
God, and have made a good beginning, both in 
doctrine and practice, then there cannot fail to oc- 
cur temptation and opposition, not of one kind only 
but of thousands of kinds. For, in the first place, 
there is our own flesh, the old rotten sack, that is 
soon apathetic, inattentive, and disinclined to the 
word of God and a good life, so that we are always 
lacking in wisdom and the word of God, faith, love, 
patience, etc. This is the first enemy that is daily 
hanging about our neck so heavily that he is 
always dragging us in that direction. 

Then comes the other enemy, the world, that 
begrudges us the dear word' and faith, and will 


have 110 patience with 11s, however weak we may 
be; it falls upon us and condemns us for what we 
do, seeks to take from us what we have, so that we 
can have no peace with it. These are already two 
great temptations that iiiwardly hinder us and out- 
wardly seek to drive us off. Therefore we have no 
more to do than always to cry to God, that he may 
strengthen and further his word in us, and restrain 
the persecutors and sectaries, so that it be not 

The third enemy is now the strongest of all, the 
very devil, who has the great double advantage 
that we are not good by nature, and besides are 
weak in faith and spirit; he gets thus within my 
own castle and contends against me; he has in 
addition the world to aid him, so that he stirs up 
ugly crowds against me, through whom he shoots 
his poisonous, fiery darts. iipon me, that he may 
weary me, so that the word in me may be again 
smothered and extinguished, and he rule again as 
he ruled before, and prevent himself from being 
driven out. See, these are three misfortunes that 
oppress us heavily enough and lie upon our neck, 
and will not cease whilst we have life and breath. 
Therefore we have constant reason to pray and to 
call. Therefore he adds these words: Ask, seek, 
knock; to show that we do not yet have everything, 
but that we are in such a condition that there is 
failure and want everywhere. For if we had it all 

398 j.uther's commentary on the 

we would not need to beg or seek; if we were even 
in heaven already, we would not need to knock. 

Now these are the chief temptations in regard to 
the serving of God and the keeping of his word. 
Next we have the common, temporal need of this 
life upon earth ; as that we are to pray that he may 
grant us gracious peace, good government, and 
protect us from all kinds of trouble, sickness, pesti- 
lence, famine, bloodshed, storms, etc. For you have 
not }et got beyond the reach of death, nor eaten 
lip all 3our daily bread, so that you need not pray 
that he may daily give it to you. Also, thus you 
have to pray for the secular authority, and against 
all kinds of vices, that the people may not rob and 
steal so from one another, since you must daily see 
that everywhere such shameful conduct abounds. 
In addition to all this you have at home your wife, 
child and domestics to be governed; there you will 
have your hands full. For he who has to observe 
and carry out in his whole life both Christian and 
civil righteousness, has undertaken more than one 
man's work and ability. 

What shall we now do? Here we are involved in 
such manifold great needs and hindrances that we 
cannot escape, if we should violently shut the door 
against them. How can I prevent my dying, who 
am so lazy and indifferent to the word of God and 
all that is good? or prevent the world from keeping 
up such a rumpus and racket, and the devil from 


raging? and how prevent there being so mnch 
trouble and misfortune? Now the dear Lord Christ 
knows this very welh Therefore he means to show 
us a precfous, good remedy, as a kind, faithful 
physician, and teaches us what we are to do about 
this, as though he should say : The world is so 
mad, and undertakes to rid itself of this with wis- 
dom and reason; seeks so many means and ways, 
help and counsel, how it may escape from these 
perplexities. But this is the only shortest, surest 
way, that you go into a little chamber, or into 
a corner, and there open your heart and pour 
[out] your desires before God with lamentation and 
sighing and assured confidence, that he, as your 
faithful, heavenly Father, will help and counsel in 
such perplexities; just as we read in Isaiah xxxvii. 
about king Hezekiah: When the enemy with a 
great army was lying before the city, and he was 
so besieged and outnumbered, that no help nor 
counsel, to human appearance, was to be hoped for, 
in addition to which the enemy most insolently de- 
fied him, and mocked at his misfortune, and wrote 
him a letter full of blasphemy, so that he well- 
nigh despaired; then the pious king did nothing 
else than to go up into the temple, lay the letter 
before the altar, fall down and heartily pray. Then 
he was soon heard and helped. 

But then we worry and fret, and have the great- 
est trouble to bring ourselves to do it, and we mis- 

400 luthkr's commkntarv on the 

erably perplex ourselves, making martyrs of our- 
selves with our cariu<^ and thinkiufr, trviufr to take 
our neck from the yoke and be rid of it. For it is 
a bad, cunning- devil that rides me as well as others, 
and has often played these tricks upon me, when I 
was tempted or worried, whether in spiritual or sec- 
ular affairs. He quickly interferes and brings it 
about that one wears himself out with his trouble; 
thereby he drags us away from prayer and confuses 
us to such an extent that one does not think of it, 
and before one begins to pray, one has already half 
worried himself to death. For he knows very well 
what prayer can accomplish, therefore he restrains 
and disturbs us as much as he can, so that we do 
not have recourse to it at all. 

Therefore we ought to learn to take these words 
rightly to heart, and accustom ourselves to it, so 
soon as any trouble and need appears, only at once 
to fall upon our knees and lay the need before God, 
according to this exhortation and promise; then we 
should be helped, so that we need not worry our- 
selves with our own thoughts about seeking help. 
For it is a very precious remedy, which assuredly 
helps, and never fails, if it be only applied. 

But how to pray aright has been shown above 
and elsewhere sufficiently. For here we are speak- 
ing only of the power of prayer and of what should 
urge us to it. The most important thing is that 
you only at first look at the word of God that may 


instruct you what you are heartily to believe, so 
that you are sure of this, that your faith, gospel and 
Christ are right, and that your calling is pleasing 
to God; then you will soon see the devil against 
you, and feel that there is lacking everywhere, in- 
ternally in faith and externally in your calling, 
that everything threatens to go wrong, and temp- 
tations are swarming on every hand: if you feel 
this, then be wise and prevail upon your heart to 
begin at once to pray and say: Dear Lord, I surely 
have thy word, and am in the calling that pleases 
thee, that I know. Now thou seest how much I 
need everywhere, so that I know of no help except 
in tliee ; help thou, therefore, since thou hast com- 
manded that we are to pray, seek and knock, and 
then we shall certainly receive, find and have what 
we desire. 

If you will accept it thus and accustom yourself 
confidently to pray, and do not receive, then come 
and call me a liar. If he does not give at the min- 
ute, he will still give you so much that meanwhile 
your heart will experience comfort and strength, 
till the time that he gives more abundantly than 
you would have hoped. For this is also a good 
feature of prayer, if one habitually practices it, and 
thus meditates upon the word that he has promised, 
that the heart becomes continually stronger, and 
more firmly confides, and finally obtains much 
more than otherwise. 


This I could clearly prove by my own example; 
and that of other pious people. For I tried it too, 
and many people with me, especially at the time 
when the devil wanted to devour us, at the Diet at 
Augsburg, and everything stood bad enough, and 
was in such a turmoil that all the world supposed 
things would be turned topsy-turvy, as some had 
insolently threatened, and the swords had already 
been drawn and the rifles loaded. But God so 
helped through our prayers, and opened the way, 
that those screamers, with their scratching and 
threatening, were completely put to shame, and a 
good peace and a gracious year was given to us, 
such as had not been for many a day, and such as 
we could not have hoped for. If now another 
danger and need arises, we will pray again and he 
must again help and deliver, although he may let 
us meanwhile suffer a little and be oppressed, so 
that he may the more strengthen us, and we be 
driven the more earnestly to pray. For what sort 
of a prayer would it be, if the need were not here 
and did not oppress us until we felt it? That one 
rightly feels his need helps to make his prayer the 
stronger. Therefore let every one learn by no 
means to despise his prayer, not doubting that it 
will assuredly be heard, and in due time he shall 
receive what he desires. 

But why Christ uses so many words, that he puts 
it in three ways: Ask and it shall be given to you; 


seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened 
unto you, when it was enough to use one; it is easy 
to see (as has been said,) that he thereby means 
the more strongly to exhort us to pray. For he 
knows that we are timid, and we are afraid to pre- 
sent our n^ed to God, as unworthy, unfit, etc. ; we 
feel the need, indeed, but cannot express it; we 
think God is so great and we so insignificant, that 
we dare not pray, which is also a great hindrance 
from the devil that does great harm to prayer. 
Therefore he entices us away from that bashfulness 
and hesitation, so that we have no doubt at all, but 
only draw near confidently and boldly. For al- 
though I am unworthy, I am still his creature; and 
because he has made me worthy to be his creature, 
I am also worthy to take what he has promised to 
me and so freely offered. In short, if I am un- 
worthy, he and his promise are not unworthy. 
Upon this, only venture it promptly and confi- 
dently, and lay it with all joy and assurance upon 
his bosom. But first of all see to it that you truly 
believe in Christ, and are in your right place, that 
pleases God, not as the world, that pays no regard 
to its place, and is only planning day and night to 
practice its vices and scouudrelism. 

One might however interpret the three state- 
ments in this way, that he repeats the same thing 
in other words to indicate perseverance in prayer, 
concerning which St. Paul exhorts in the twelfth 


of Romans: Continue instant in prayer; as tliou.q;h 
he said: It is not enough to beg-in and give a sifjli, 
and say the prayer and then go your way: but, 
just as the need is, so should the prayer be. For 
it does not once take hold of you and then go 
away, but it hangs o-n and falls about your neck 
again, and will not let go. Do the same also, so 
that you always pray, and besides seek and knock, 
and do not let go; just as the example of the 
widow teaches in Luke eighteen, who would not 
let go of her judge, with persevering entreaty, and 
so pertinaciously that he was overpowered, and 
had to help her ungraciously. How nnicli more 
(Christ there infers) will God give to us if he sees 
that we do not cease praying, but keep on knock- 
ing and knocking, so that he must hear; especially 
because he has promised it, and shows that he has 
pleasure in such perseverance. Therefore, as the 
need is always knocking, so do you continue to 
knock, and do not cease, because you have his 
word; so he will have to say: Well, then go, and 
have what you desire. Of this St. James says in 
his epistle, that the prayer of the righteous man 
availeth much, if it is earnestly pressed, and he 
quotes for this the example of Elijah the prophet 
from the Scriptures, etc. Thus God also does it 
for the reason that he drives you not only simply 
to pray but to knock, so that he means to try 
whether you can keep a firm hold, and to teach 


you that your prayer is not for that reason unpleas- 
ant or unanswered, although he delays and lets you 
often seek and knock, etc. 

V. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men 
should do to you, do ye even so to them : for this is the law and 
the prophets. 

With these words he now concludes his teaching, 
given in these three chapters, and gathers them all 
up in a little bundle in which one can find it all, 
and every one can put it in his bosom and keep it 
well; as if he said: Would you like to know what 
I have preached, and what Moses and all the proph- 
ets teach you? then I will tell you in a very few 
words, and state it so that you dare not complain of 
its being too long or hard to keep. For it is such 
a sermon that one can stretch out far and wide, and 
also make short; and all teaching and preaching 
flow out from it and spread themselves, and here 
they come together again. How could it be ex- 
pressed more briefly and clearly than in these 
words? except that the world and our old Adam 
prevent us from catching his meaning and contrast- 
ing our life with this teaching; we let it go into one 
ear and out at the other. Were we always to hold 
it in contrast with our living and doing, we would 
not live so rudely and be so neglectful, but always 
have enough to do, and become our own masters 
and teach what we ought to do, so that we would 


not need to run after holy living and works, and 
would also not need many jurists and lawbooks for 
this purpose. For it is briefly stated and easily 
learned, if only we were diligent and earnest to do 
and live accordingly. 

Thus, that we may see it in plain illustrations, 
there is surely no one who would like to be robbed, 
and if he asks his own heart about it, he must 
say that he really would not like that. Why does 
he not then conclude that he should not rob an- 
other? As, if you see at market that everybody 
makes his goods as dear as he chooses, that he wants 
to give for thirty pennies what is not worth ten, 
and you ask him: My friend, would you like to be 
treated that way? then he cannot be so coarse and 
unreasonable, but must say: I would buy it at 
its market value, and what would be reasonable and 
right, so that I be not overreached. See, there is 
your heart that tells you truly how you would like 
to be treated, and your conscience that concludes 
that you should also do thus to others, and it can 
properly teach you how you are to deal with your 
neighbor in buying and selling and all sorts of deal- 
ing; all of which belongs to the seventh command- 
ment: Thou shalt not steal. 

The same in regard to the other commandments: 
If you have a wife, daughter or maid, you would 
not like to have her disgraced or badly spoken 
about, but you want to have her honored and well 


treated and highly spoken of by everybody. Why 
then are you so perverse as to hanker after another 
man's wife and yourself put her to shame; or to re- 
frain from honoring her when you should do it, and 
to find pleasure in traducing and slandering? Also, 
you would not like to be injured by any one, or 
badly spoken of, or any thing of that kind; why do 
you not here yourself keep to the rule and measure 
that you demand and will have from others, and 
why do you soon judge, blame and condemn 
another if he does not do it to you, and yet will not 
yourself act according to your own rule? Thus go 
through all the commands of the second table, and 
you will find that this is the real sum of all the 
preaching that we can do; as he himself says here. 

Therefore it is well called a short sermon; but 
again, if we were to spread it out through all its 
applications, it is so far-reaching that there would 
be no end to it; for we cannot count up all that 
"will be done upon earth till the last day; and he 
is a splendid master who can compress and em- 
brace in a summary such a long, diffuse sermon, 
so that every one can take it home with him, and 
daily remind himself of it, as written in his own 
heart, yes, in all his living and doing (as we shall 
hear further on) and see where he has been want- 
ing in his whole life. 

And I believe too that its force would be felt and 
its fruits realized if we would only accustom our- 


selves to reineiiiber it, and not be so very indolent 
and careless. For I do not think that any one 
is so coarse, or so wicked, if he would bear this 
in mind, that he would still shun it or take offense 
at it; and it is surely a wise device that Christ puts 
it in such a way that he takes no other illustration 
than ourselves, and he applies it in the closest pos- 
sible way, laying it upon our heart, body and life, 
and all our members, so that no one need go far 
after it or spend much trouble or cost upon it; but 
he has laid the book in your own bosom, and be- 
sides so clear that you need no glasses to under- 
stand Moses and the law, so that you are your own 
Bible, master, doctor and preacher. He gives you 
such directions that you need only to look at them 
to find how the book reaches through all your do- 
ings, words, thoughts, heart, body and soul. Reg- 
ulate yourself only according to that, and you will 
be wise and learned enough, above all jurists, art 
and books. 

So, to take a rough illustration, are you a me- 
chanic, you find the Bible lying in your workshop, 
in your hand, in your heart, that teaches you and 
preaches to you how you are to deal with your 
neighbor. Look only at your tool, your needle, 
your thimble, your beer-cask, your wares, your 
scales, your yard-stick, and you read this motto 
written upon them; so that you cannot look in any 
direction that it does not stare at you, and no one 


thing is so small, with which you daily have to do, 
that does not constantly say this to you, if you will 
hear it, and there is no lack of preaching. For 
you have just as many preachers as you have deal- 
ings, wares, tools and other apparatus in your 
house and home. That is always calling to you: 
Dear friend, deal with me towards your neighbor 
just as you would like you neighbor to deal with 
you in his line of business. 

See, thus would this teaching be written upon 
everything that we look at, and enstamped upon 
our whole life, if we only had ears that were will- 
ing to hear and eyes that were willing to see; and 
it is so richly preached to us that no one can ex- 
cuse himself as not knowing it or not having it suf- 
ficiently told and preached to him. But we are 
like the adders that stop their ears and become 
deaf if we attempt to charm them; we will not see 
or hear what is written in our own heart and 
thoughts, and we rush ahead recklessly: Ha, what 
do others concern me! I can do with my own 
what I choose, and sell my goods as dear as I can ; 
who will hinder me, etc. ? as Squires Skin-flint and 
Gag do at market; and if one rebukes and threatens 
them by the word of God, they merely laugh and 
ridicule and only harden themselves in their wick- 
edness. But we do not preach to these, nor does 
Christ, and he will have nothing to do with them, 
and just as completely despises them as they do 
[him], and he will let them go to the devil. 


But those that want to be pious, and still fear 
God and think how they will live and act, must 
know that they are not to deal with and handle 
their property as they may wish, as though they 
were themselves masters of everything: but they 
are bound to do what is right and orderly, for 
which reason we have laws of the land and of the 
city. For so every one wishes to be dealt with by 
his neighbor; therefore he should do likewise, both 
taking and giving good wares. This is his seri- 
ously meant command, and he will not allow any 
liberty or arbitrariness to be made out of it, as if 
one could do it or not without sin; and he will in- 
sist upon it, however much the world may view it 
as an insult and despise it. If you do it not, he 
will deal with you according to your own measure, 
and it will come home to you, so that you will 
have no blessing in what you have gained contrary 
to this teaching, but all trouble and sorrow, and 
your children after you. For he will have his 
command kept, or there shall be no good or suc- 
cess enjoyed. 

Secondly, it is not only brought so close home 
(as now stated) that we must see it in everything 
that occurs ; but it is also presented in such a way 
that one has to blush at his own conduct. For 
there is no one who would like to do a base act so 
that other people should see it, and no one is as 
ready to sin publicly before the people as if it oc- 


ciirred secretly, so that no one sees it. Thus 
Christ means to set us here as witnesses against 
ourselves, and to make us afraid of ourselves, so 
that if we do wrong our conscience will oppose us 
with this command, as a perpetual witness, and 
say : See, what are you doing? This you ought 
to sell at such a price, according to common 
fair usage ; now you are asking too much. Also, 
these wares you would not like to take from some 
one else, as you are depreciating or misrepresent- 
ing them, etc. How you should be vexed if some 
one would give you for a gulden what would be 
worth hardly ten groschen ? so that, if }'ou have a 
drop of honest blood in your body, you ought to 
be ashamed of yourself. For if some one else 
would do it you would call him a thief and a 
scoundrel. Why, then, are you not ashamed of 
yourself, as not some one else but you yourself 
must thus blame yourself, condemned by your own 
conscience? But that is all very well for a hard, 
shameless forehead, that feels no disgrace before 
the people, before itself, still less before God. But 
if another does it to you then you can readily cry 
out: Is not this a sin and a shame, and cunningly 
stolen from the purse? You can easily see a thief 
and scoundrel in another ; but the one who hides 
in your own breast, and whom you can easily catch 
and feel, him you will not see. 

O, how many such fellows there are in all trades 


and occupations, that live along securely, deceiving 
and cheating the people, wherever they can, and yet 
not willing to be counted thieves and scoundrels, if 
they only do it secretly and smartly. But if every- 
body was to give back what he has stolen and robbed 
in his business or trade, few people would retain any- 
thing; yet they live along as pious people, because 
they cannot be publicly criminated and punished, 
and they imagine too that they have not sinned; 
and if they look about themselves, every corner of 
the house and home is full of thievery, and God is 
witness that they do not have a gulden or two in 
the house that has not been stolen; and yet all this 
must not be called stealing. Yes, if it were only 
stealing, and not also murder besides, for with bad, 
injurious wares, food or drink, people are made 
weak and sick, etc., and not only robbed of their 
money, but also of their health, so that many a one 
eats and drinks, so that he afterwards must pine 
away and often die in consequence of it. My good 
friend, is not that just the same as if you were to 
break into his house or chest, or to strike him a 
deadly wound? — only it goes by a different name. 
If you were not so wicked and shameless, \ou 
should be ashamed of yourself when your con- 
science says this to you, and holds this saying 
before you so that you must reflect; yes, it would 
make you so fearful that you would not be able to 
stay anywhere on account of it. For it is a burden 


that is always oppressing and disturbing, yes is 
always condemning, as a perpetual witness against 
ourselves, so that it cannot possibly be borne. That 
would then soon teach you that you must quit 
plundering and stealing, and such things that you 
would not like to have done to you by some one 
else, etc. Thus accustom yourself then to look a 
little at this saying, and practice it upon yourself, 
then you will have a daily preacher in your heart, 
in whatever way you may be dealing with your 
neighbor; thereby you can readily learn to under- 
stand every commandment and the whole law, and 
to govern and conduct yourself in your intercourse 
w'ith others, so that you may well decide accord- 
ingly what is right and wrong in the world. 

But do you say: How does he say that this is 
the law^ and the prophets? The Scriptures of the 
law and the prophets contain much more than this. 
For the Scriptures have the doctrine of faith and 
the promises, of which nothing is said here. An- 
swer: Christ names here the law and the prophets 
in direct contrast with the gospel or the promise. 
For he is not preaching here about the important 
article, namely, concerning faith in Christ, but 
only of good works. For those are two different 
kinds of preaching; we must preach them both, 
but each in its proper time and place. That you 
see also clearly in the text, in the words where he 
says: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to 

414 luthkr's commentary on the 

yoii, that do ye unto them likewise. Thereby he 
shows that his preachings now extends no further 
than to the dealings which people have with us 
and we with them, and says nothing about the 
grace of Christ which we receive from God. 
Therefore he now means to say: If one is to preach 
about good life and works, which we are to prac- 
tice in dealing with our neighbor, then you will 
find in all the law and the prophets nothing else 
than what .this saying teaches you. Tlierefore he 
uses the words: the people, and: that do ye to 
them, etc., to indicate that he is speaking only 
about the commandments of the second table. 

And this is the best in the saying, viz., that he 
does not say: Other people shall do it to you; but: 
Ye shall do it to other people. For every one 
would like others to do good to him, and there are 
many scoundrels and bad fellows who would have 
no objection to other people being good and doing 
good to them; but they will not do it to anybody: 
as now our peasants imagine it is wrong and great 
oppression that they are to give fair measure ; and 
yet they can loudly cry and complain that they are 
robbed or are taxed. But these are nothing but 
vile reptiles. Some, however, are a little better, 
who say: I would take my turn and gladly do what 
I ought, if other people would first do it to me. 
But this saying puts it in this way: Do thou what 
thou wouldst have from another. Thou shalt be- 


gin, and be the first, if thou wilt that others shoukl 
do it to thee ; or, if they will not, do thou it never- 
theless. For if thou wilt not be good, and do 
good, before thou seest it in another, nothing will 
come of it. If others will not, thou art none the 
less obliged to do it, according to the law, and 
what is acknowledged to be right, as thou 
wouldst be glad to have done to thee. He who 
wants to be good must not regard the example of 
other people; and it will not do for you to say: He 
deceived me, and I must befoul him again; but 
because you do not like it, do not do it to him, and 
begin with that which you wish to be done to you. 
Thus you may then influence other people through 
your example, so that they will do good again to 
you, even those who before did you harm. But if 
you do not do it yourself, you have as )our reward 
that no one does good to you ; and you are served 
right, before God and the people. 

V. 13, 14. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the 
gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destriiclion, and 
many there be which go in thereat : because strait is the gate, 
and narroiv is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there 
be that find it. 

He has now ended his sermon, our dear Lord, 
and finally concludes the same sermon with several 
warnings to equip us aganist all kinds of hin- 
drances and vexations, both in doctrine and life, 
that we meet with in the world. For of a truth 


die teaching has been beantiful and precious, at 
the same time widely spread out and also briefly 
enough condensed, in a single word, so that it can 
readily be told and understood; but then comes 
the trouble and the labor to put it in practice; and 
it is indeed a difficult and hard life to be a Chris- 
tian or pious, for that will not be sweet for us; as 
that good girl said: Much belongs to honor; yes, 
indeed, and still much more to a Christian life. 
This is what our dear Lord is here thinking of, 
that it may seem desirable and occur to them: I 
would indeed like to live in that way; but a great 
deal is required for that. Yes, I say that too (says 
he), therefore I warn )-ou, be careful, and do not 
mind if it is a little sour and difficult; for it cannot 
be otherwise in the world. 

This a Christian must know, and he must be 
prepared for it, so that he does not allow himself 
to be hindered or vexed, if the whole world lives 
otherwise, and he must by no means adapt him- 
self to the course of the great mass, as IMoses also 
prohibited already in the twenty-third of Exodus: 
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, etc., 
as though he should say: Offenses you will always 
find existing in the world; as also Christ here says: 
The way to destruction is broad and very many 
are walking upon it; and the gate is very wide, so 
that crowds pass through it. 

That is the great offense that startles a grreat 


mai:y people, and causes them to apostatize, yes, 
it has greatly perplexed the prophets and the holy 
people; as David in the Psalms often laments, 
especially in Psalm Ixxiii. at length: I was envi- 
ous at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of 
the wicked. For there are no bands in their 
death, but their strength is firm. They are not in 
trouble as other men; neither are they plagued 
like other men. In short, they are fortunate upon 
earth (says he) and become rich, have house and 
home full, live in luxury and do jnst what they 
please. But what do I do, on the other hand? I 
must be pious and suffer, and am plagued daily 
and chastened every morning, that is, if I slightly 
transgress, he is quickly behind me with the rod. 
That is what I get for it. There everything is in 
honor and joy; therefore all the world falls in with 
them, everybody praises and congratulates. As we 
saw under the papacy; if any one only put on a 
priest's robe, him all the world had to praise and 
honor; everybody contributed to this, and she was 
a happy mother who bore him. And it is just the 
same now: He who only is an enemy to us is held 
in high honor and esteem among them, let him live 
as he may. That was a great cross to the dear 
fathers, that they had to see this success and wick- 
edness in the world, so that every one highly re- 
garded it and ran after it, and they were to be 
pious and have nothing with it but misfortune, 


and suffer contempt and persecution from every- 

Christ wishes to show this also, and to warn his 
own that every one should so live in the world as if 
he were alone, and regard his word and preaching 
as the very greatest thing upon earth, so that he 
would think thus: Although I see that my neighbor 
and the whole city, yes the whole world lives differ- 
ently, and all that are great, noble, rich, princes and 
lords, side with it; yet I have an associate who is 
greater than they all, namely Christ and his word. 
Therefore, though I am alone, I am yet not alone. 
For, because I have the word of God, I have Christ 
with me, together with all the dear angels and all 
the saints from the beginning of the world; so that 
really there is a greater crowd and more glorious 
; procession about me than there could now be in the 
whole world; only, that it is not visible to mortal 
, eye, and I must see and bear the vexation that so 
' many people fall away from me, or live and act in 
hostility to me. 

You must firmly hold on to this, if you expect to 
endure; otherwise this vexation will carry you 
away, if you are influenced by how other people live 
and believe. For the Turks hence conclude, as 
their strongest argument [against us]: Do you sup- 
pose that God is so cruel as to condemn a great 
world? In like manner also the papists: Yes, do 
you think that what you bring forth from your cor- 


ner is the only right thiing, and that the whole 
world is damned? Should so many popes, bishops, 
holy fathers, kings and princes altogether have 
erred, etc. ? They insist so doggedly upon this 
that no man can tear them away from it, and they 
conclude most assuredly that our doctrine is not 
rioht: and their only argument is: There are manv 
of us, there are few of them; we are pious, learned, 
wise, God's people, occupy the apostles' seat, etc., 
therefore we cannot be in error. Christ has surely 
not forsaken his church nor God his people. It is 
not possible, that God will damn so many people 
for the sake of a few; for he has not created heaven 
in vain. 

But against all this Christ teaches thus: Only 
out with your eyes, or turn them the other way, so 
that you don't by any means look at the great 
crowd, but only at God's word; and be assured that 
it cannot be otherwise than that the way to de- 
struction is broad, and the gate wide, and many 
going upon it; and again, the gate to life is nar- 
row and the way strait, and very few going 
upon it. Therefore it is of no avail that the Turk 
and pope boast about those of their faith: We are 
many and have long, believed as we do; therefore, 
it must be right. For Christ bluntly asserts the 
contrary, and he calls that the way to destruction 
that is broad and well travelled, and warns that ve 
should not be worried because there are so few of 

420 luthkr's commentary on the 

us and the other crowd is so large. But it is very 
hard to digest this little mouthful, if one rigluh- 
feels it, so that I have myself often choked at it, 
and thouglil: We are such a little, poor company, 
despised and damned by all that is high and great 
upon earth; ought we then to 1:>e boastful and de- 
fiant against all the world, to assert that our side 
alone is right, and to decide in regard to all of 
them that pope, bishop, and all that adhere to 
them, belong to the devil ? Yet we must get over 
this, and conclude : I know that my cause is right, 
though the whole world should talk otherwise. 

How must the dear virgin Mary have felt when 
the angel came and brought her the message that 
she was to be mother of the Highest? Who then 
was about her that believed this, or stood by her? 
Ought she to have taken it into the account that 
there were the daughters of so many rich, noble, 
great lords and princes there, and should God not 
have known how to find any other one for this high 
duty, to which no virgin had ever been called but 
herself, a poor, unknown, despised maiden? Also, 
how did the patriarch Abraham act, when he had 
to go forth from Chaldaea, and travel alone, as if 
he alone were a Christian and all the world con- 
demned? But he had to give" himself no concern 
about that, nor look around upon others, but had 
to speak thus: " How God manages with the whole 
world, I will let him see to that; but I will stick 


to liis word and follow that, although I see all the 
world going differently;" as also Mary must have 
thought: "What God will do with others, that I 
will let him care for ; but I will abide b\' the word 
that I hear, and that tells me what he will do to 
me." So we must also conclude: I see that the 
pope, bishops, princes, sectaries, civilians, and 
peasants, do as they please, despise and ridicule us 
with the greatest assurance, so tliat I might sa\- : 
Do you then think that you alone are right against 
all of them? But go along pope, princes, learned 
men, and all the world; I know that the doctrine 
is right, and that it is the word of God : I will 
abide by that, whatever may happen. 

Thus Christ now means to say: I have given 
you this instruction, so that you may see how ex- 
tremely few people agree with you, and how many 
will teach and live to the contrary, so that it will 
greatly perplex you; but be firm^ and do not let it 
worry you, and know that it cannot be otherwise, 
and remember that I told you beforehand that the 
gate to life is strait and the way narrow; but the 
other broad and wide, etc. Therefore pay no at- 
tention to that, but hear what I say to you, and 
follow me. For I, with all the saints, have taken 
the narrow way; you must take it too, if you would 
come to me; let the others go their wide way. 
For you will see how narrow the pit will be into 
which they will have to go; on the other hand ye. 


who now must go by the narrow way through the 
strait gate, will come into a beautiful space, as 
large and wide as heaven and earth. 

Now, what makes then the way so narrow and 
small? • No one does but the very devil, the world 
and just our own flesh, which is lazy, resists and 
refuses, and will not move forward, to trust God 
and rely upon his word, cannot bear the world's 
contempt, poverty, perils, etc. In short, it likes 
also to travel the broad road, therefore it makes 
this path for us sour and difficult. 

Then comes the world, that persecutes us, hangs, 
murders, burns and drowns, because we will not go 
with it in the broad way; and if it can do no worse 
it slanders and abuses us most poisonously, drives 
us out with sword, fire, and water: so that it is a 
hard battle, to stand there and fight against our 
own flesh, so that one may trust God, love his 
neighbor, live chastely, and abide in his lot; and if 
we do all this in a hard struggle, then the world 
must come too with its persecuting and reviling 
us as the worst criminals upon earth, just to make 
our life hard. 

Along with this comes the devil himself and tor- 
ments the heart with evil thoughts, unbelief, fear, 
dread, despair, makes out of our good deeds sin and 
shame, and yet we have to remain among these 
enemies and exposed to their assaults. Under 
these circumstances one may be vexed and tempted 


to apostatize and say: I see indeed that those have 
rest and a good time, pass their days in qniet 
peace, and have the same glory and honor of be- 
ing the true servants of God: why shall I then alone 
suffer myself to be so wretchedly persecuted, vexed 
and abused ? Where they all stay, there will I 
stay too. 

The ancients have admirably depicted this in the 
legend of the Knight Tondalo (except that they 
did not rightly apply it, and interpreted it of 
purgatory or the punishment of souls after this 
life,) how he had to pass over a small bridge that 
was scarcely as broad as a hand, with a burden on 
his back, and under him a sulphurous pool full 
of dragons, and besides there was one coming 
towards him to whom he had to give place. That 
coincides well with this statement. For a Chris- 
tian leads a life as hard as if he were walking upon 
a narrow path, yes, upon nothing but razors; thus 
the devil is beneath us in the world, he is inces- 
santly snapping at us with his jaws, that he may 
drive us into impatience, despair and murmuring 
against God ; besides the world opposes us and it 
neither will yield to us nor let us pass by, and our 
flesh hangs about our neck; so that we are crowded 
on every side, and the way in itself is so narrow, 
that of itself there would be trouble enough even 
if there were no danger or hindrance in the way: 
yet we must go through or fall into the hands of 
the world and the devil. 


Therefore reflect and act accordingly: if yon will 
be a Christian, let it be so. For things will re- 
main as they are: you will not make the way any 
broader, and must observe that a few go here, and 
the great crowd there. But let this be your com- 
fort, first, that God is with you; then, that after 
you have gotten through you will come into a 
beautiful, wide place. For if you only adhere to 
the word and act according to it, not according to 
sight, then he is assuredly with you, and so effect- 
ively that your spirit will overcome the flesh, the 
world and the devil, so that he can accomplish 
nothing through }'our flesh, nor through the world, 
nor of himself For the word upon which )-ou 
rely through faith is too strong for him, although 
it appears ■ little and we do not see it. But he 
knows very well what it can do, as he has often 
tested it and felt what a force and power it is, if 
one believes in it. Therefore the prophet so con- 
fidently boasts in Psalm cxviii: "The Lord is on 
my side: I will.not fear: what can man do unto me ? 
They compassed me about like bees; they are 
quenched as the fire of thorns; for in the name of 
the Lord I will destroy them. Thou hast thrust 
sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped 
me," etc. See, he too has nothing else than the 
word and faith, that the Lord is with him, whom 
he still does not see; but he feels indeed the world 
and the flesh that make his way narrow and em- 


bitter his life. Yet he remains firm, finds his satis- 
faction in the fact that the Lord is with him and • 
approves his course, and he is sure that he will be 
on the Lord's side and conquer, though all the 
world should oppose him. 

We must also avail ourselves of this consolation, 
that we learn to make for ourselves out of the 
strait gate and narrow wa}' a wide space, and out 
of the little company a great crowd, so that we do 
not stare at what we see, but through faith and 
the word look at the invisible, namely, that Christ 
himself and all the heavenly host are with me, and 
have gone the very same way, and in a beautiful 
long procession have preceded me to heaven, and 
that all Christendom till the last day are still trav- 
eling the same road. For where he goes and stays, 
there they must all go and stay. Thus our way be- 
comes light and easy, so that we confidently pass 
through; as Christ also invites thither and says: 
Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy- 
laden, I will give you rest; for my yoke is easy and 
my burden is light; as if he meant to say: Do not 
be grieved by what I lay upon you in the world. 
For it is a yoke and a burden to the flesh, and is 
called a narrow way and a strait gate; but only 
adhere to me and I will make it very easy and 
pleasant for you, and give you so much strength 
that you can easily go that way; and not only so, 
but you shall also experience that it will become 
lovely and sweet for you. 

426 Luther's commentary on the 

For this is certainly true, if we rightly look at 
both sides, that believers have the advantage, so 
that they onght not willingly to exchange with the 
ungodly. Although these live in luxury and those 
must suffer much; yet these trouble and worry 
themselves ten times as much as we do, with their 
poisonous, restless hatred, and with so many fruit- 
less schemes, how they may harm us, and all sorts 
of evil practices and tricks, with which they crim- 
inate themselves, so that they still have no good 
conscience nor a real cheerful hour, and they are 
their own devil here upon earth; and yet they do 
not accomplish an\-thing more thereby against us, 
than to befoul and oppress us somewhat, as much 
as God allows them. 

But those who believe in Christ do not need 
these cares and troubles, and can still have a cheer- 
ful heart and conscience. Although we are some- 
what distressed, and the devil annoys us: yet he 
must again refrain, and we are refreshed by the 
word, so that our burden and distress become 
sweet and we have only half a torment, outwardly 
in the external man; but they are doubly tor- 
mented by the devil, they have their hell both 
here and there, with perpetual torment and unrest 
of conscience, of murder and blood, so that they 
cannot have any cheerful, good thoughts toward 
God, although outwardly they may have a little 
joy and pleasure. So they are rightly served, as 


the Scripture says: Duplici coiitritioiie conteres eos 
Domine^ Lord, destroy them with double destruc- 

See, thus the Lord means with all fidelity both 
to have us warned and comforted, so that we do not 
care if our life is embittered, and we must see and 
feel so much vexation in the world, because if we 
look at it aright, it is only half-embittered, and 
through Christ, on whom we believe, everything in 
our heart becomes sweet and conduces to life and 
eternal joy. What harms it then, if the old Adam 
is somewhat worried about it? 

V. 15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's 
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 

Hitherto the Lord has been correctly presenting 
both doctrine and life, and warning against that 
which is contrary to it, and injures or hinders. In 
addition to that he now also adds a warning, so 
that we beware lest, whilst all is right both in 
doctrine and practice, teachers may secretly arise 
among us who under the name and semblance of 
genuine preachers and of the gospel, may introduce 
something else, and pervert and ruin both the doc- 
trine and life. 

For it cannot be otherwise than that the true, 
pure teaching of the gospel must on every hand 
be attacked by the devil in all sorts of ways, 
both externally and internallyj as Christ taught 


from the beoiniiins: of this sermon: that he who 
means to be a Christian must consider this; that 
he will have as enemies, first, those who are out- 
side of Christendom, who will oppose, hate and 
injure him, striking and throttling him, or at least 
reviling, cursing and condemning; and it is settled 
that he who has no haters, revilers, and perse- 
cutors is not a Christian, or at least has not 
yet proved his Christianity by outward act and 
confession. For, as soon as he makes a profes- 
sion, the world becomes his enemy, and if it can 
it will surely kill him for it. These are now open 
enemies and outside of Christendom, that every 
one can see and readily feel. 

But in addition to these (Christ means to say 
here), you will have another kind of enemies that 
are not without and deny the doctrine, but who 
grow up among you, bear and boast of your 
name — these, first of all, do the great harm. For 
the others, though they make a great ado, cannot 
do more than take body and goods ; but my heart 
and my faith they cannot take from me by vio- 
lence. But these are not after body and goods, 
but let me keep what I have ; but they cunningly 
reach after the doctrine, that they may take the 
treasure itself out of my heart, namely, the dear 
word, on account of which we suffer persecution 
from those enemies. This is indeed a lamentable 
business, that those who are called our brethren, 


and profess also the Christian doctrine, set them- 
selves up against us and under the same name set 
aside the true doctrine and introduce another ; as 
St. Paul also warns his Ephesians, and predicts 
(Acts XX.): Of your own selves shall men arise, 
speaking- perverse things, etc. That is (I say) 
especially a lamentable thing that those should do 
it who are among us and of us, whom we regard 
as upright, and against whom we cannot protect 
ourselves until they have begun to do harm. 

This is the persecution i'n Christendom that was 
predicted throughout the Scriptures, and has 
lasted in fact from the beginning of the world. 
For so it was with Moses among his people, yes, 
Jacob, Isaac and" Abraham in their families, and 
Adam, who had only two sons, yet one of them 
had to instigate mischief. 

And I think we have now had sufiEicient experi- 
ence of it ourselves. How many there were who 
at first held with us and began [to follow] the gos- 
pel against the pope, so that it seemed as though 
we would have the whole world with us? But 
just when we were about to carry everything be- 
fore us, our own people fall to work and do us 
more harm than all the princes, kings and emper- 
ors could have done. Well, what shall we do 
about it? They do us great injury, and besides 
strengthen our enemies against us, who cry out, 
There one can see what our teachinsf is, since we 


are not a unit among onrselves, and the Holy 
Ghost cannot be with us, since we ourselves perse- 
cute, abuse and revile one another, etc. We must 
endure this, that the enemies be strengthened by 
this scandal, and we be weakened and reviled, and 
thus have both onr enemies and our brethren 
against us, so that in fact there is no greater tribu- 
lation in Christendom, in external matters, so far 
as our teaching is concerned. 

Since now we must always expect this, and can- 
not avoid it, Christ gives us along with this ser- 
mon both a consolation and a warning. The con- 
solation is, that we are not to be alarmed, or to 
trouble ourselves to death in regard to this 
wretched tribulation, as we see' and feel it, thn.t 
we who confess the word of God are not a unit 
among ourselves ; but, taught by his word, say 
thus in response to it: That I knew very well be- 
fore, when I wanted to be a Christian, that it 
would be just as my Lord Christ beforehand pre- 
dicted, that I must have two kinds of enemies, both 
from without and also from within, from my own 
dearest friends and brethren. Therefore this shall 
not frighten me off and make me apostatize from 
the doctrine, as if it were to be wrong for the rea- 
son that those set themselves against me who have 
been my brethren. Why, Christ himself had 
Judas, his betrayer, with him, and what he taught 
and did was not false or wrong because his dear- 


est disciple deserted him and did the mischief. 
Therefore, we must not mind our Judases. 

But the warning is, tliat we should certainly ex- 
pect this and diligently take care and be on our 
guard that these parties do not deceive us, but we 
must arm ourselves against them and learn to 
know them. For by his saying: Beware, he means 
to teach that we are not to be yielding or impa- 
tient, but to open our eyes, be wakeful, cautious 
and wise. For against those external enemies we 
need nothing more than patience, that we may 
suffer what they lay upon us, and be firm ; but here 
it avails not to suffer, or yield, but to beware and 
see to it that I do not entrust a word even to my 
brother in confidence, but look with sharp, wake- 
ful eyes only at the word, and trust no man who is 
now with me, who to-day can preach with me, 
but to-morrow perhaps against me. And no one 
should think himself safe, as not needing this ex- 
hortation. For it is such a dangerous, subtle 
temptation, that even the most spiritually minded 
have trouble enough to avoid being deceived by it. 
But the rest, that are secure and careless, cannot 
at all prevent their being misled. Therefore he 
does not without reason add the word: Beware. 
For the semblance and name is too attractive, so 
that no one can recognize it (as we shall hear) who 
does not have the correct understanding of th ' 
word of God, and besides with all diligence f;! 


heed to it, and lets it be his supreme care to hold 
it pure and undiluted. 

For see how he depicts them, the false teachers, 
according to their appearance and aspect. In the 
first place he gives the name, that they are called 
and are prophets, that is teachers and preachers ; 
and are proud of it that they are not otherwise 
called or regarded, have just the same ministerial 
office, the same Scriptures, and the same God 
whom thev boast of as the others; and yet they are 
false prophets. For he is speaking here of those 
who preach by virtue of their office. For the 
others, who act without official authority, are not 
fit to be called false prophets; but tramps and 
scamps, that ought to be turned over to the rabble, 
and are not to be endured, (even if they do teach 
aright,) when they want to interfere with the office 
and sphere of others, in violation of established 
order; or secretly and thievishly to creep into cor- 
ners, where no one unauthorized ought to offer a 
sermon of his own, or to insinuate himself, al- 
though he may hear and know that the public 
preaching is false, as he is not responsible for that. 
For God established this office, as others, so that 
we are not to act contrary to it; but he who does 
not rightly discharge it wull have to answer for 
himself, and will surely find his judge. 

Secondly, says he, that they come in sheep's 
^-ing, so that one cannot blame them, nor out- 


warJly distinguisli them from other true preachers. 
These two things it is that do harm, that they 
hold the true office, and besides come with such 
beautiful attire and semblance, that one cannot say 
anything else than that they are true, pious 
preachers, who seek every one's welfare; as they 
charmingly profess, and can swear to it, handling 
only the name and word of God. This spreads 
very rapidly and hurries the people violently along, 
like a flood, so that one cannot resist it. For who 
is there among the rabble that can or dare set him- 
self against these and rebuke them ? Yes, who 
knows how to guard himself against them, since 
they come with God's name and word (as they 
boast) ? 

But Christ herewith warns us against both, so 
that we are not to be influenced by the fact that 
they hold the office, although this is necessary, and 
belongs to a preacher; but no one is thereby as- 
sured that he is therefore to believe him, as if he 
could not in the office be a scoundrel : as it is not 
unusual in the world that there be in all offices 
and grades in society many scamps and low fellows 
that abuse their position. They may be called 
prophets indeed (says Christ); but beware, and see 
to it that they are not false prophets. In like 
manner, be not misled, if they come in sheep's 
clothing with the precious name and semblance. 
For here you are told that under that there may be 


hidden a ravening wolf. Therefore beware again 
that the sheep's clothing do not deceive yon. For 
they must all wear that beantiful covering and 
semblance if they are to deceive the people. 

And this is just the difference between these 
secret and the other open enemies. For the latter 
rnsli in among us openly, so that every one readily 
knows them; but these come among us in the same 
office that we have, employ also the same Scriptures 
and words for appearance sake; but they come (says 
Christ,) of their own accord; that is, although they 
have the office, yet they bring the word and doc- 
trine that God has not entrusted to them, nor did 
he send them for that, but their own dreams and 
devil's doctrine, adorned with God's name. There- 
fore be especially warned against the sheep's 
clothing, so that you trust no one, however great a 
show he makes, but look only at the word, whether 
he rightly handles that, or under cover of it is sell- 
ing his own wares. 

See, if we would now accept this warning, and 
regulate ourselves according to the words of Christ, 
we could easily guard ourselves against all false 
prophets and preachers. But that they are so 
rapidly multiplying is owing to the fact that we 
who hear the true gospel do not earnestly accept it, 
do not take care that we truly have and hold it; 
move along in such a sleepy, lazy way, as if we 
could not go astray. That is the reason why we 


are deceived by this excellent show and semblance, 
before we are aware of it. For as soon as another 
new teacher comes and begins, then the word: at- 
tendite^ beware, is forgotten, with which we onght 
to be eqnipped, and we onght so to hear every one 
as though we did not hear him, but were looking 
at and attending to the word alone. Those are 
trifling, imsettled spirits, that look only into the 
preachers' mouths, and suddenly run after them, 
through curiosity that makes them eager for novel- 
ties, so that they think: O, I heard that one before, 
now I must hear this one too, he is a fine, learned, 
holy man, etc. There the devil has already gained 
a foothold, and ensnared them before they are 
aware of it, drives and leads them as he pleases, 
from one conspiracy into another; as St. Paul says 
of these (Eph. iv. 14) that they are like a reed, tossed 
to and fro, and carried about with every wind of 
doctrine. If to-day or to-morrow some one else ap- 
pears, they rush after and listen to him. 

The reason is, they have no certain understand- 
ing in their heart of God's word, have little regard 
besides for the gospel; think, if they have heard it 
once or twice, that they know it and now have it 
all: they are soon tired of it, open their eyes and 
ears if some one comes that brings something new; 
and it happens with them, as with Adam and Eve, 
misled by the serpent; who gazed at the forbidden 
tree and imagined these beautiful thoughts against 


the word of God: Why should we not eat just from 
this tree? because thus eager and curious, so that 
they became tired of all the other trees iu the whole 
of Paradise .i:id gazed only at this one, etc. 

But if it were a serious matter with us in regard 
to the gospel, and we were carefully living so as to 
keep the treasure pure and clean, we would not be 
so easily deceived. For I hope indeed that no fac- 
tious spirit shall so easily upset me, because I know 
that the gospel is true, and I would not like to 
lose it. But if some one comes in beautiful sheep's 
clothing, I will not look at his mask, as if I 
wanted to hear something else or new: but [I ask] 
whether he agrees with my gospel. If not, then 
thank God, I am thoroughly assured that he is a 
false pro]3het and a ravening wolf under his sheep's 

Thus the devilish spirits have the twofold ad- 
vantage, that we are such heedless, secure and 
frivolous people, and they can trick themselves out 
in the beautiful wool of the sheep. For by sheejD's 
clothing he means not bad conduct and gross sin, 
as of the heathen and unchristian people ; but the 
excellent name and reputation of real Christians, 
that have holy baptism, sacrament, Christ, and 
ever}'thing that belongs to Christ. They must 
bring all this along. For no one must come along 
and say: This I say; but thus: Dear friends, this 
Christ says, here you have God's word and the 


Scriptures, this you must believe, if you wish to 
be saved; he who teaches otherwise deceives you, 
etc. ; they make use of the precious name of Christ, 
and God, and the awful, grand words: God's 
honor, truth, eternal salvation, and whatever other 
words like these thereto belonoincr. If now anv 
one hears these excellent words, and is so earnestly 
exhorted in view of his soul's salvation and de- 
struction, he becomes alarmed, and surrenders 
himself at once, if he is not well furnished and de- 
cided against it. For it cuts like a sharp razor, 
and strikes through body and soul. That is a part 
of the sheep's clothing. 

Besides, they embellish themselves with wonder- 
ful works and ways, go about in gray coats, look 
morose, and lead a hard, strict life with fasting, 
bodily mortifications, hard couches, etc., and do 
not live at all like other ordinary people. That 
makes again a great impression, and captivates the 
people admirably, so that they fall in by crowds ; 
and such a villain with a single sermon can mis- 
lead a whole city that has had the word of God for 
a long while, and make them forget in an hour 
what they have heard for ten years; so that even I, 
if I wished, would easily undertake in two or three 
sermons to preach my people back again into the 
papacy, and get up new pilgrimages and masses, 
by means of this show and special sanctity. For 
the rabble is, as was said, easily thereby persuaded, 


and at any rate curious and eager to hear what is 

See, thus must they embellish themselves, both 
in doctrine and practice, so that they employ the 
same words that we hear, and along with this lead 
a beautiful attractive life; as now our anabaptist 
sectaries, in fact, mislead many people by crying 
out that we do not have the re;al gospel, because 
one may see that it yields no fruit, and the people 
continue to be bad, proud, avaricious, etc.; that 
there must be something more than the mere 
word and letter: the Spirit must do it, and they 
must honestly strive to live better; if it were the 
word of God it would surely also produce fruit. 
Then they go on and say they have the true under- 
standing, and the right fruits and life. If a simple, 
inexperienced man hears this, he says: O, that is 
really so! lets himself thus be carried away by the 
taking words: Spirit, and fruits of the Spirit. 
Then they go further, and say: He who wants to be 
a Christian must not share in civil authority, or 
bear a sword, or have anything of his own, as it is 
with us; but he is a true Christian who proves it 
by his works, forsakes everything, does not accept 
any secular authority and rule; dresses in a gray 
coat; suffers hunger and sorrow, etc. These they 
call fruits of the Spirit. See, these are nothing 
but sheep's clothing; with these they carry away 
crowds of the poor people. 


Who can now recognize the wolf under this and 
guard against him? Answer: I know no other 
counsel than, as I have said, that every one first 
see to it that he is sure of his case and of the doc- 
trine, and have so settled it in his heart that he 
can adhere to the doctrine, although he see every- 
body upon earth teaching and living otherwise. 
For he who wishes to get along safely must abso- 
lutely not look at any outward marks in Christen- 
dom and shape his course after them, but must 
look alone to the word that shows the true way of 
living that avails before God. As, for example, 
the principal topic and sum of the Christian doc- 
trine is this, that God has sent and given his Son, 
Christ, and alone through him forgives us all our 
sins, justifies and saves us. That you are to cling 
to, and nothing else. Then, if you look about 
you, you will see a great variety of dissimilar per- 
sonalities and modes of living, that one is a man, 
woman, master, servant, prince, subject, rich, poor, 
representing the various callings or offices that are 
in the world, and all so mixed up together that I 
can see nothing that has a peculiar appearance 
[about any of them]. But as I am so settled in 
mind, and know that main topic in which I have 
the whole summed up, my heart concludes thus : 
Suppose I see a husband or a girl, master or ser- 
vant, learned man or layman, clothed in gray or 
red, fasting or eating, looking grave or laughing; 


what have I to do with that? In short, what that 
dijHerence is that I see [in them], that is all the 
same to nie. For I understand this, that a maid 
in a red dress, or a prince in his golden garment, 
can be just as good a Christian as a beggar in a 
gray coat or a monk in a woolen or hair shirt, and 
I am with such an understanding^ safe aQainst all 
sorts of external masks. 

But he who does not hold this main truth, or know 
how to regulate everything by it, cannot avoid 
being deceived by these masks, when he sees one 
happy with his wife and children, or splendidly and 
richly dressed, etc., and another looking demure, 
fasting much, barefoot, and in a gray cowl, and he 
concludes at once: O, that is a holy man! the others 
are of no account; and keeps gaping thus after the 
masks, out of humor; is not smart enough to say: 
Can there be a r©gue lying hidden under the gray 
coat? as a Christian can conclude and say: Dear 
monk, if you wear your gray coat not of necessity, 
•but with the peculiar notion that you will be re- 
garded by others as something peculiar, then you 
are a desperate, double scoundrel, making the 
people gape by your pretended sanctity; otherwise 
you would have to say: If a farmer, who is plongh- 
ing or manuring upon liis field is just as good a 
Christian as I, and will get to heaven, what do I 
want with my peculiar way of living? 

But, as I have said, the great common mass 


hankers after these masks that fill their eyes and 
make a special show, so that it amounts to nothings 
if one preaches long against them. And we are 
besides naturally inclined to this doctrine and 
works. For it is well pleasing to reason, which 
always likes to deal with God with its own works. 
Thus it happens that the devil through these 
teachers prompts and agitates until he has quite 
persuaded us. 

But we who want to go safely must before any- 
thing else see to it, as I have always taught, that we 
are firmly rooted in our main point, concerning 
Christ; then we can correctly judge concerning all 
outward masks and styles, and the Spirit will duly 
teach and lead us. Thus every one will find enou"h 
real good works to do in his calling, if he wants to 
be pious, so that he need not seek for anything 

For, are you a prince, judge, husband, servant, 
maid, etc., and are you to practice and prove your 
faith, to fill your place and calling properly, and do 
what is right: then you will surely get so much to 
do and to work, that no Carthusian will have a 
harder order to work for than you. For what sort 
of great trouble and hard work is that, for him to 
wear a gray coat or hood, or walk in wooden shoes, 
or mortify his body a little, if he be somewhat 
strict, and yet along with that live without care and 
worry, and have enough to gormandize and guzzle? 


But this one must eat his daily bread in the sweat 
of his face and with hard work, and must let not 
alone his body but rather his heart be plagued by 
the wicked world and his neighbors, and expect and 
endure all misfortune, discord and affliction; so that 
a true citizen's calling, conducted in a Christian 
way, is more than a ten-fold Carthusian order; ex- 
cept that it does not make a show, like the monk, 
who wears a hood, is separated from the people, 
etc., and yet, if we open our eyes and rightly com- 
pare the two, even reason must come to the same 
conclusion. Thus also a prince, although he wears 
golden chains and a cloak of marten fur, but is 
pious, yet he is under the marten cloak such a 
plagued and miserable man, that you cannot find 
his like in any monastery. Thus go through all 
offices and callings. If you find a pious man or 
woman, you need not look there for a monk or a 
nun; for he or she is already monk or nun enough, 
and is living in a harder order than all the hood 
and tonsure wearers; yes, it is all tomfoolery before 
God with all the monks and hermits, in contrast 
with a pious child, servant or maid, who is 
obedient to duty. Only do what a pious man or 
woman ought to do, there you have a rule that is 
harder to follow than the rules, hoods and tonsures 
of St. Francis and of all the monks, which cover 
rather a scoundrel than a pious Christian, 

But proud reason will not look at this, but disre- 


gards it and thinks: O that is a common afifair, that 
every one may have at home! gapes after some- 
thing else that is strange and odd, looks in wonder, 
follows the continual bawling; which is all a mere 
false show, with which they come along and so 
dress up their trifling way of living as to put con- 
tempt upon all else that are God's ordinances and 
callings, as if they were of no account. But it is 
all owing to this, that we do not take hold of the 
word of God with real earnestness, or we would 
soon say: Let the Carthusians come on, and the 
Anabaptists, the devil himself or his mother, they 
could not make better callings or ways of living 
than God has made. 

Therefore we must count every calling as excel- 
lent, high, divine, whether it be that of a pious 
husband, servant, maid or faithful laborer, and 
could thus rightly judge according to the word 
about all works and callings, and every one could 
rightly teach and live, and everything would move 
along splendidly. Those would be the right call- 
ings which God has ordered and established, and 
which he approves; and if God granted that we 
could bring it to pass that a city would have many 
of these pious citizens, women, children, masters, 
servants and maids, we should have heaven upon 
earth, and would need no monasteries, and should 
have no need of fasting, or praying and singing all 
day long in the churches, but simply of doing 
what their various offices and callings require. 


Thus you see what the kinds of sheep's clothing 
are with wliich they set the people gaping. But 
what are they inside and in fact? Nothing else 
(says Christ) than ravening wolves. That is what 
they seek, the desperate scamps, that they with a 
beautiful show of doctrine and life may ruin and 
destroy souls. Not outwardly, as the tyrants and 
persecutors, who destroy life and property; also, 
not as the preachers, who publicly preach against 
us and condemn our doctrine, etc. : but inwardly, 
that they secretly tear away the treasure of our 
heart, which has now become the throne or king- 
dom and dwelling-place of God. That is, all their 
scoundrelism that the)" so adorn with doctrine and 
life, aims at destroying the faith and the founda- 
tion article concerning Christ; as now the Anabap- 
tists outwardly bear our name, and indeed ac- 
knowledge that we have the gospel, with the word 
and preaching ; but there follows (they say) no 
fruit. Just with this word : No fruit, they turn 
the attention of the people from faith to works, 
and they push aside the main thing, which is faith 
in Christ, and they lead us away so that we are to 
look alone at the fruits ; if these appear, then it is 
the true gospel, and vice versa; and their whole 
teachins: is nothing- else than that one must do his 
utmost and make a display with the fruits, have no 
private property, forsake everything, etc. ; fall 
back again upon their works, and place their con- 


fidence in them, as thereby to be saved. And 
what is the worst, they do not teach the true fruits, 
which the gospel teaclies and demands after faitli, 
but what they dream about and imagine ; say 
nothing about how every one is to follow his call- 
ing properly and faithfully, and abide in it, but 
just the contrary; lead the people away from these 
eallings, teach them to forsake them as worldly, 
and run away from them, and look at sometliing 
that is peculiar; look morose, live severely, stop 
eating, drinking, dressing like other people, let 
themselves be tortured and killed willingly and 
when not required. Else (say they) the gospel 
yields no fruit in you, and you are still no Chris- 
tian, although you have long been believing, etc. 
And these their dreams they adorn with the 
Scriptures and quotations from the gospel, though 
Christ never taught or required this, neither by 
word nor example, that we are to run away from 
the community, forsake every thiug, have nothing 
of our own, except when it becomes necessary that 
we must either do this or give up his word. 
Therefore you must not forsake these things before 
he orders you, or you are forced to do it. If it 
comes to that, then say: Before I will forsake 
Christ and the gospel, rather may go wife, child, 
body and goods, sun, moon, and all creatures. But 
apart from necessity you have God's command, 
that you are to love your neighbor, serve and help 


him with body and goods, in like manner to love 
and rule yonr wife, child, domestics, not rnn off 
from them and desert them, as these [fanatics] do, 
against the word and ordinance of God, altogether 
withont necessity, and yet they want to boast of 
the great frnits of the gospel, as special saints. 

Learn thus to. recognize these spirits, as they 
under the sheep's clothing inwardly raven, and 
take away the faith, lead you from Christ back 
upon yourself, and call this fruits of the gospel, 
which they themselves imagine, by which they de- 
stroy the real fruits. That is what these ravening 
wolves are in sheep's clothing that have always 
been injuring Christianity. Hitherto they have 
been called monks; now tliey are Anabaptists, as a 
new sort of monks; in old times they were Pelagi- 
ans, Ishmselites, Esauites, Canaanites. For tliis 
faith has continued since the beginning of tlie 
world; and although these Anabaptists may get out 
of the way, others will certainly come. 

In short, monkery will endure as long as the 
world stands, although with other new names and 
methods. For all that go about getting up some- 
thing peculiar, beyond faith and ordinary callings, 
these are and remain monks, although they do not 
use the same kind of style, clothing or methods. 
It is true we can easily be on our guard against 
these that go about with hood and tonsure; for 
they are now sufficiently marked, so that every one 


knows them. But beware of the new monks, that 
do not wear hoods, but yet start some other odd 
notions, pretend great devotion and sanctity, with 
demure looks, gray coats, and a strict mode of liv- 
ing; they say, one must not wear satin or silk, red 
or variegated clothes, just as those monks also 
taught, so that still it is monkery all the same, 
only with a diflferent mask. Therefore, the artists 
have hit it exactly, when they paint the devil in a 
monk's hood with his devil's claws sticking out 
below. For he has been doing nothinor else from 
the beginning of the world than to mislead the 
world by monkery. 

V. 16-20. Ye shall knozv them by their fruits. Do men 
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every 
good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but a corrupt tree bring- 
eth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil 
fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down 
and cast into the fire, Wherefo7-e by their fruits ye shall 
know them. 

Since the Lord Christ has warned his followers 
to hold firmly to his doctrine, and to beware of 
their being misled by others who under sheep's 
clothing are ravening wolves: he now instructs 
them also, as an additional warning, how they are 
to recognize them by their fruits, and he uses an 
illustration in plain, simple words that even a 
child can understand. For no one is so simple 


as nol to know that a thorn-bush bears no figs 
or grapes, etc. But however simple the words 
are, yet no one sees how much they mean unless 
he diligently considers the word of God. But it 
all depends upon this, that we understand what he 
means by a good or bad tree or fruit. For it is 
easily said: This is a fig-tree or a thistle, a good 
apple or a f^our wild plum, and with the eyes and 
reason it can be easily seen and understood; but as 
Christ here uses it, there is uo other way to ex- 
plain it except by spiritual comprehension, accord- 
inof to God's word. For we heard above how these 
same false teachers employ such semblances and 
smooth words, that reason cannot judge them, or 
guard itself against them. Yes, it is just that 
kind of doctrine and life that grows out of reason 
and suits it, and is naturally pleasing to u>, be- 
cause it teaches about our own doing and working, 
which we understand and can do. 

By a good tree that brings forth good fruit is 
meant, in short, one who lives and conducts his 
walk and conversation according to the word of God, 
pure and simple. For he means to tell hereafter 
also of many who have heard the word of God, and 
also say: Lord, Lord, and besides have done many 
wonderful works, and yet are false and hypocritical. 
Therefore we must here completely silei ce reason 
and follow the word of God alone, and then infer, 
if we wish to judge about life and works, that we 


may know what God's word calls a good tree or 
good fruits. For this is too much for reason, (as I 
said,) if it sees a man who wears nothing but a gray 
coat, fasts every week, as the Pharisee in the gos- 
pel, yes who also does wonderful works and 
miracles, that he should not be a good tree with 
good fruits. For it cannot look any higher, or 
think and understand any better, is badly caught 
by it, so that it concludes he who leads a different 
life from other people, he must be a peculiar, holy 
man; she sees not, the blind fool, that these works 
are all still far, far from the word of God. 

And if you now ask: Whence do you know that 
these works are so precious as you make them out 
to be? it can give no other answer than: I think so. 
There, go to the dogs with your thinking, if I am 
to trust my soul's salvation upon it. The rule is: 
you must know, and not imagine or think, and you 
must have a sure basis and evidence from the word 
of God, so that he is satisfied, and you can say: 
The work is well done, the calling is well pleasing 
to God, that I know; not according to my own 
light or star, so that it appears good or evil to me; 
but that is decided by the word and command of 
God. It does not seem to me that a husband, or 
wife, or prince, or judge is as holy as one who creeps 
into corners or goes into the wilderness: but it does 
not avail to decide according to my thinking; and 
although some one should exorcise devils and do 


all the miracles that the apostles did, I would rather 
be servant to a shoemaker or a dishwasher accord- 
ing to God's word, and I will consider this calling 
superior to your thinking, even if you could raise 
the dead. Therefore adhere to it that bringinc: 
forth good fruits means that kind of life and good 
works that are in the line of God's word and com- 

Thus these words — by their fruits ye shall know 
them — are given as a token and set as a sign 
whereby they can be judged and recognized. If 
we are deceived, it is no one's fault but our own. 
For he has not left us in doubt, but has drawn the 
picture clear and distinct. If you cannot judge 
them (says he,) because of their sheep's clothing, 
then observe their fruits and works, whether these 
are upright and good. 

Yes, (you say,) how am I to recognize these? 
they too may themselves be deceptive. Answer: 
You surely know what God's commands are; then 
see whether they agree with them. For I will as- 
suredly warrant you that no captious spirit will 
come without making it perfectly sure and leaving 
a stench behind him that one may sec tliat the devil 
has been there; and there has never yet a false doc- 
trine or heresy made its appearance without bring- 
ing the characteristic mark along with it which he 
here indicates, that it has proposed otlier works 
than those which God has commanded and 


ordained. That now the world is misled is owing 
entirely to its following wild reason and neglecting 
the word of God, paying no attention to what he 
commands and gaping after the pretenders, if it 
only sees something odd. 

He who wishes to judge rightly here, let him do 
as Christ teaches, and set before himself their works 
and fruits, and contrast them with the word or 
command of God, and he will soon see how these 
coincide. Look at the very holiest Carthusian 
monk with his strict order, and St. Paul on the 
other hand with the ten commandments, and you 
will see that St. Paul preaches in this style: If you 
have Christ through faith, then let every one be 
obedient and subject to the authorities, and exer- 
cise love toward one another in all callings. See, 
there you have a true mirror of a Christian life, ac- 
cording to God's command and ordinance. In con- 
trast with this comes that factious spirit and says: 
O that is of no account! There are many bad 
people in the [different] callings, and it is all a 
worldly matter, etc. ; ah, we must seek something 
better. So he goes along and makes something 
peculiar and odd, comes parading along in a hood 
or a gray coat; that must now be a grand life and a 
perfect calling. 

But if you are firmly rooted in God's word, you 
can soon judge and say: Where has God com- 
manded you to get special callings and works in 


opposition to the coniinon callings that he has or- 
dained? I know very well that there are many bad 
fellows and pious people in all callings; but what 
concern is ii;at of mine how they abuse them? I 
will still abide by the word that teaches me that 
such callings are good, although there are bad 
people in them. That is what I look at and regu- 
late myself by; and because the calling is good, the 
works and fruits, performed according to the word 
of God, just as the calling demands, must also be 
ricrht and oood. Bnt because vour calling has no 
word of God for it, the works, done in the calling, 
cannot be good, and both tree and fruit are rotten 
and of no use. 

Thus you have a sure judgment, that cannot de- 
ceive }on, as Christ teaches you, to know them by 
their fruits. For I have also read about all the 
heretics and fanatics, and have found that they one 
and all every time put forth something different 
from what God had ordered and commanded, one 
on this subject and another on that. One forbade 
to eat all kinds of food; another marriage; the third 
denounced the civil authority; and each one took 
up something peculiar to himself, so that they all 
must walk in this track. 

Therefore it lies (as I have said), entirely in this, 
that one properly knows and holds the definition, 
what Christ calls good works or fruits, namely, 
that a o-ood work is that which is ordered or com- 


manded by the word of God and is covered by that 
coinmaud. As a married woman who is pious and 
deports herself rightly can say this and boast that 
her calling is commanded by God and has the 
right, pure, unadulterated word of God, and 
heartily pleases God. Therefore her works are all 
good fruits ; so that one is to judge and decide a 
thing to be sfood not because we think so, but be- 
cause God says so and pronounces it good. Ad- 
here to this, and you cannot go astray as they must 
do. For the judgment stands, that they cannot 
teach any proper fruits. God also thinks the same 
way about this, so that they must preach nothing 
else than about jDurely invented juggleries; and, 
because they despise real fruits and works, as not 
having any special show about them, he too de- 
spises their foul works that they put forth with 
great show, and presume to do things better than 
he has done. 

It is a proverb, invented by the priests, and I 
think the devil himself mocked them with it: 
When our lyord God made a priest the devil was 
looking on, and wanted to imitate him, and he 
made the tonsure too broad and it turned out a 
monk; therefore they are the devil's creatures. 
That is said by way of a joke, but it is nevertheless 
the pure truth. For where the devil sees that God 
orders obedience and love to one another, and con- 
stitutes an excellent, spiritual little assemblage, he 


cannot refrain from building his chapel or beer- 
shop alongside of the church, and also afterwards 
teaching his nionker\-, poverty, gray coats, etc., so 
that always the monks are the devil's priests; for 
they preach the doctrine'of devils (as Paul also calls 
it) wrought out of their own imaginings, and they 
claim to be wiser than God and to do his work 
better than he does. 

Therefore Christ now means to say: If you wish 
to know and judge them, keep to the pure word of 
God, that you may be sure what the right fruits 
are and see how they accord with them: thus you 
will surely find that they teach and practice other- 
wise than as God has commanded; from that you 
can certainly also test the tree, that it is not good; 
and they consider this a coarse, childish comparison. 
Can one gather grapes from thorns or figs from 
thistles? Yes, very well, (they think) should not 
we be able to do that? Why one may gather pure 
sugar from them. For these works are by far more 
valuable, according to their notion, than those God 
has ordered. But look at the two kinds of trees, 
the vine or fig-tree, and in contrast the thorn-bush 
or thistle. Thistles and thorns may also bloom, 
but what kind of fruit do they produce? But the 
fig-tree, however, is such a simple tree, makes no 
boast of its fruits or leaves, puts forth no leaves be- 
fore the fruit is at hand, but before you are aware 
it produces fruit. So also the vine, it is more com- 


pletely destitute of show and glory than any other 
tree, a mere thin, weak wood; yet it bears the 
very sweetest grapes, better than any other growth, 
whilst other trees plume themselves upon their 
leaves and flowers, so that one should think that 
they would yield pure sugar; and yet they produce 
nothing- but these sour fruits that are of no use. 
Thus also here these have the show and make a 
racket with their boasting of special works as if 
they alone were doing it: and when the bloom is 
over, there are nothing but medlars that are quite 
full of stones, neither nourishing nor feeding any- 
body, or thistle heads that only prick or scratch if 
one takes hold of them. For if one contrasts with 
them the command of God, whether God has com- 
manded and ordered these works, and whether 
they have been done for the service and benefit of a 
neighbor, it is seen that they are of no account and 
only hinder the real good works. Again, as to the 
other callings, they make no show, do not shine 
and glitter, and yet they yield the very finest, best 
fruits, and cause the greatest benefit upon earth, 
but [they do this] before God, and before those who 
are enlightened through spiritual eyes, so that they 
can rightly look at and judge the matter. 

Therefore he now speaks thus: Can one also 
gather figs from thorns? As if he would say: It 
may bloom beautifully, but wait a little, and see 
when the time comes to gather the fruit what you 


will find tlien. For nothing more will come of it 
than that people are thereby deceived that have 
been waiting for large, valuable fruit, and yet find 
nothing which they or others can comfort them- 
selves with or enjoy; besides the harm is done, that 
even the very highest reason is deceived and misled 
by this phantom, gotten up by the devil, which has 
not God's word and sound understanding, but fol- 
lows its own notion and devotion and supposes if 
this pleases it, this must also please God; but it 
should be turned the other way, so that I am glad 
to hear what pleases him, although there are vex- 
atious things in all God's callings, and besides there 
are many bad people in them that injure these 
fruits, just like miserable worms. 

And this comparison he concludes with a com- 
mon saying which he was fond of using elsewhere: 
Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and an 
evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. But what is the 
need of teaching this in so many words? Who 
does not know this already? Why a blind man 
could tell it by the bush; and he thinks us such 
fools that we don't know this? Well, he who 
knows it, let him know it; but we are willing to 
learn it and remain Christ's scholars. For, as was 
said, it is not such an easy art to decide in regard 
to this doing, of which Christ is speaking. But 
this saying serves to comfort and strengthen such 
as are in those callincjs that reason does not con- 


sider desirable or respectable, so that there is much 
vexation in them and much evil is done in them, 
by which many people are startled, so that they are 
considered dangerous, as if one could not easily 
serve God in them, etc. ; with this St. Augustine 
worried and plagued himself greatly, even when he 
was already a great doctor, so that he would have 
been glad to see everything right, and to separate 
from the callings what was bad, and the Pelagian 
heretics made him a great deal of trouble with this 
matter: as nearly all the heretics have aimed at 
making things perfectly pure, and, (pardon the ex- 
pression) have totally befouled them. 

But why need we go far to find it? It is here 
admirably put, and in a few words: The calling 
that God has created and ordained, and the man 
who moves and lives in this calling according to 
the word of God, he can produce nothing but good 
fruits. With that you can now console your heart 
against these thoughts: Alas, this or that one has 
put me into this calling! There is nothing but 
disgust and trouble in it ! This has often assailed 
me in regard to my office, and it still does, so that, 
if it were not for the word of God, I would long 
since have foresworn the preaching of a sermon, 
and would have given good-bye to the world; as the 
monks used to do. But that is the work of the 
devil himself, who makes every one's calling so 
burdensome to him, and so blinds proud reason that 


it cannot recognize the office and work that God 
assigns to ns and which is heartily pleasing to him, 
and thus it ruins its own calling and fruits. For it 
would snrely be a good tree and a go6d calling; 
but reason does not see it and stands in its own 
light, so that it cannot bring forth good fruits. 

Therefore learn to look at your calling thus ac- 
cording to this saying, so that you may thence con- 
clnde: Now I know, thank God, that I am in a 
good, happy calling, that pleases God; although it 
is vexatious to the flesh, has much trouble and dis- 
satisfaction, all that I will cheerfully endure. For 
here I have the consolation that Christ says: A 
good tree yields good fruit, in all callings compre- 
hended in God's word, although they are despised 
and depreciated by the world and the special saints. 
On the other hand, I hear the decision, that every 
evil tree brings forth evil fruit: so that when I see 
the holiest Carthusian, I see a worthless, evil tree, 
although he makes a fine display and has not so 
much worry and opposition. For the devil does 
not embitter and burden him as he does, the true, 
divine callings. Therefore those callings and works 
they are well pleased with. 

But just as little as I can see in my calling that 
my fruit is good, just so little also can he see that 
his calling and fruit is evil and of no value; and 
this saying must be inverted among them, and read 
thus: An evil tree brings forth good fruit, and a 


good tree brings forth evil fruit; so that, in short, 
here reason cannot judge, nor see the goodness of 
its calling and its works, or derive joy or pleasure 
from them; but it praises the opposite. For, if we 
could see it, we should move along in constant joy, 
and should suffer and endure everything with a 
cheerful heart that God lays upon us, assured that 
because the tree is good its fruits must also be good; 
so that if a pious farming servant hauls a wagon- 
load of manure to the field he is hauling a load of 
valuable figs and grapes; but [this he does] in the 
sight of God, not in our eyes, who do not believe, 
hence every one becomes tired of his calling and 
gapes after another. 

That is now what Christ means when he con- 
cludes so bluntly and directly: A good tree brings 
forth good fruit, and the opposite; and, to make it 
still stronger, he adds with seeming superfluity, and 
says: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, and 
an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. How, 
cannot a servant or a maid be a scoundrel? Cannot 
a man or. a woman commit adultery? Cannot a 
prince be a tyrant, or a preacher be an impostor? 
You have said the same yourself. Where are we 
to look for scamps and scoundrels except in the 
various trades and callings? Answer; Yes, that is 
only too true; but in that case he is no longer a 
good tree, for he goes beyond his calling and lives 
iu opposition to God's command. But if he abides 


ill his calling or office, and does what this demands, 
he caiiot be an evil tree. Therefore says he: Only 
be careful to remain a good tree and I will warrant 
you that what you do cannot be evil. For the 
works that God has ordered must have the praise 
that they cannot be called evil. 

What better thing could we now desire than to 
have this praise and testimony from Christ himself, 
against all factious spirits and such as make special 
claims to sanctity, that we know that we are in 
such a calling in which we cannot do evil, if we 
live in accordance with God's word and do what is 
our duty. Yes, even if something evil should in- 
tervene, if we overdo things not purposely or 
wilfully, but through ignorance or weakness, this 
must also be good and pardoned. In short \ou 
cannot spoil it, because you are in the divine office 
and word, only abide in that and it cannot be evil; 
or, although it would otherwise be sin, yet it must 
not be called evil, but be covered over and for- 
given; so richly shall you be blessed through the 
word of God. Just as a fig-tree, or other tree, al- 
though it sometimes bears a worm-eaten fruit, yet 
this is still a good fruit, after its kind, without 
prickle or thorn ; yes, rather than have no fruit at 
all, it must have fruit that is worm-eaten, yet inno- 
cently so; thus all the works of a Christian are of a 
good kind, because the tree is good, and he so lives 
th;it he would gladly bring forth only good fruit, 



altliougli sometimes through the weakness of the 
flesh, or some other hindrance, something evil slips 

On the other hand, those thorn-bushes and 
thistles, if they should do their best, cannot bring 
forth any good fruit that may be called a good 
apple or fig. And no Carthusian or barefooted 
monk, if he should pray and torture himself to 
death, could say a Lord's Prayer that God would 
call good or do any good work; but the more he 
would do, and worry himself to do good works, 
the worse he would make it. For it is decided: A 
thistle bears no figs, and a thorn-bush no grapes; 
and in short: an evil tree cannot bring forth good 
fruit. That sounds like severe and strict denun- 
ciation of all self-constituted orders and callings, 
that they cannot do a single good work; and on the 
other hand like admirably comforting us, so that 
we who live according to God's word cannot do 

Thereupon he now concludes: Every v tree that 
bringeth not forth good fruit is cut off and cast into 
the fire. There you have the decision stated that 
shall be proclaimed in regard to all who teach and 
maintain their own works, aside from the word of 
God, who mean to accomplish and effect it that 
their cause must ever abide and think that God 
must spare them, as valuable trees and plants, and 
fence them in and take the bes.t care of them: but 


do not perceive what a sentence has been pro- 
nounced against them, so that he has already de- 
tected the kind and marked it on the tree, as Clirist 
elsewhere says, and that they are fit for nothing 
but the fire of hell. For it stands written: Every 
plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted 
shall be rooted up, etc. 

This he lias now spoken through comparisons, 
and as in parabolis or dark words. Now he goes 
further and means to explain what he meant 
thereby, and he adds the right comment, with 
clear, plain words, and says: 

V. 21. Not every otie that, saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall 
enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of 
my Father which is hi heaven. 

That is, just those who serve me, and regard 
their way of worship as the very best, and are 
earnestlv concerned about entering into the kinnf- 
dom of heaven, and think they have it before all 
others, against these I will shut heaven. That is 
a terrible decision, that no one is farther down in 
hell than the greatest devotees, that is the most 
holy monks; as the devil also has made a proverb, 
and himself made a mock of his saints, as a scoun- 
drel who himself cannot conceal his villainy, so that 
it is said: Hell is paved with the tonsures of priests 
and monks. That is just what he says here, that 
those who claim to be the orreatest saints shall not 


enter the kingdom of heaven. Why? For they 
say: Lord, Lord, (says he,) but they do not the will 
of my Father which is in heaven. How is this? 
Are they not doing the will of God, when they are 
serving God night and day, and besides are working 
miracles, as is presently said? What shall become 
of the other o^reat crowd if these are not to be saved? 
Answer: You hear very plainly that he says No to 
this, and makes a distinction between saying: 
Lord, Lord, and doing the will of his Father; and 
he sa^'s; I do not want those who solemnly cry: 
Lord, Lord, and come with their great devotion, as 
if I must lift them to heaven; but those I want who 
do my Father's will. They hope and presume 
that they will not only get to heaven, but will also 
by their merit bring others in, and will have high 
seats and receive special crowns, etc ; as they con- 
fidently boast: Shall not a Carthusian merit more, 
and have a higher grade in heaven than a mere 
layman or a married woman? Else what does he 
gain in the monastery with his strict disciplines, 
etc.? But it is not: Carthusians or servants of 
God enter heaven, but those who do the will of 

For to do the will of God does not mean to put 
on hoods or wear gray coats, and to run off from 
the community into monasteries, etc., for the 
scriptures have not a word about that; but it means 
this, that Christ has preached and taught, namely, 


that we believe in Christ, and be found in that call- 
ing that has [the sanction of] God's word, and do 
in it what he has commanded. Turn to the ten 
commandments and see how St. Paul out of these 
teaches those in all callings, how inferiors are to 
render fidelity and obedience to superiors, the 
others to love and serve each other, etc., and every 
one to be faithful in his office. There you find no- 
thing about priestliness or monkery, gray coats, or 
other specialties. He now who lives in this way, 
he does the will of God, which he has himself in- 
dicated. These are fit for heaven, not those who 
neglect the word of God, and yet have meant to 
serve God with great earnestness and devotion, so 
that they say over and over again: I^ord, Lord, 
whilst the rest of us hardly say it once. For these 
same persons are always busier and livelier in their 
worship than the real Christians; but since they 
have done their own will, they may also seek an- 
other Lord who may hear them and open heaven 
for them. 

Therefore he means hereby to warn us again to 
be careful not to be misled by these who offer such 
great splendid worship (although they may even 
work miracles); but be content with what he calls 
good, so that everything is done in accordance with 
his command, although it makes no display, nor is 
pleasing to reason, because we have the test, that 
no factious spirit can be content with that, nor 


teacli or bring forth good fruit, but they are busied 
merely with their own thoughts, spun out of their 
own head. These are now the first whom Christ re- 
jects, that come and make the world full of forms of 
worship; as he predicted about them in Matt. xxiv. 
23: For there shall arise false Christ's and false 
prophets and shall say: Lo here is Christ, or there, 
and shall deceive many. Then others shall come 
who not only say: Lord, Lord, but also do great 
wonders and signs. Concerning this he now adds: 

V. 22-23. Many will say to me hi that day, Lord, Lord, have 
we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? 
and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then ivill 
I profess jinto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that 
work iniquity. 

These are now high, excellent people, and yet 
they are shamefully deceived and altogether unex- 
pectedly go to hell. The others of whom he has just 
been speaking, go to the same place as a genial 
crowd, unless they are at the very last converted; 
as I hope that,nevertheless, many of them have been 
saved on their death-bed, converted from that error. 
But these claim to be sure of heaven, begin to call 
God to account, and say : Are we not to be saved? 
Surely we have preached in thy name and done 
so many wonderful works. 

How can this now be, that they do wonderful 
works, and besides in the name of Christ, and yet 
can be counted among false Christians and damned, 


wicked people? I always thought, as it is also 
true, that God gives no sign or testimony to con- 
firm lies, as Moses says, Dent, xviii. 20, etc.: "If 
a prophet shall presume to speak in my name, 
which I have not commanded him to speak — and 
if thou say in thy heart, How shall we know the 
word which the Lord hath spoken? When a 
prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the 
thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the 
thing which the Lord hath not spoken." And yet 
here the contrary is stated, that they do miracles in 
his name, and yet are false, wicked people. 

First, this may be an answer, that they were 
once real Christians and truly preached and did 
wonderful works, but afterwards became apostates. 
For this is the very devil's [work], (against which 
also St. Paul warns his Corinthians,) if a Christian 
begins to feel that he is in advance of others, and 
has superior understanding, wisdom, and other 
gifts, so that he is self-satisfied and becomes proud, 
and he turns out to be such a man as shells himself 
out of the grain and nothing is left but the empty 
husk; he thinks nevertheless that he is pious and 
well off; as there have been many such people, and 
there are still many such. For it is an extremely 
dangerous thing, if God endows a man with high, 
excellent gifts, that he do not become proud, but 
continue humble. Thus we read about an ancient 
father in the wilderness, who had a peculiar gift to 


exorcise devils, and helped many people, so that all 
the world ran after him and regarded him almost as 
a God. Then he began to be tempted by the vain, 
honor, and when he felt that, he besought God to 
guard him and not let him fall into [the sin of] 
pride. Then God let him be possessed and plagued 
by the devil for four weeks, so that he lost all his 
reputation, and everybody said: See, he helped 
others, now he lies there and cannot help himself] 
Thus he was rid of the temptation and remained 
humble. I give this as an example, to show how 
dangerous a thing it is with great, high gifts, and 
how pride is always apt to attach itself to them; as 
we see also in gross outward things, yes, in the 
beggar's staff of temporal possessions and authority. 
In short, God's gifts are so grandly noble, but we 
are so befouled, that we cannot avoid becoming 
proud and taking on airs if we are conscious of 
them; on the other hand, of becoming desperate if 
we do not have them. 

That (I say) would be indeed an answer, but we 
will not press it here, although it is fair. For the 
principal thought is that he is here speaking of 
false prophesying and wonder-working as he says 
also in Matt. xxiv. 24: For there shall arise false 
Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great 
signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possi- 
ble, they shall deceive the very elect; and St. Paul 
says of Antichrist, 2 Thess ii. 9. Who will come 


with all power and signs and lying wonders, and 
with all deceivableness of nnrighteonsness, etc., be- 
cause they received not the love of the truth, that 
they might be saved; so that assuredly false mir- 
acles must be performed in Christendom, and the 
false Christians must regard them as real, true 

Now that has been abundantly verified in the 
papacy; although in Turkey there are many of 
these priests and peculiar saints. One need only 
read their books and legends, especially those 
written by the monks, what a hotch-potch it is, 
brim-full of wonders; that are all however nothing 
but lies and knavery. How have people nowadays 
been fooled with so many pilgrimages to the valley 
of the Grim, to Eichen, to Treves, etc., and I have 
myself seen some nioiks, shameless, bad fellows 
and reckless men, who nevertheless exorcised the 
devil and played with him as with a child. 

But who could, relate all the knavery and raising 
of the devil that has been practiced under the holy 
name of Christ, of Mary, of the holy cross, St. 
Cyprian, etc., all of which the monks have carried 
on with vigor, and all the world has fallen in with 
them and no one dared peep against it. There 
was no pope or bishop that would preach against 
it, but all helped it along; and if any body resisted 
it, he was overwhelmed and silenced with violence; 
as not long ago bishop Ernst, of Saxony once 


pulled down such a devil's chapel; but he had to 
suffer for it, so that he fell sick in consequence and 
was glad to rebuild it. Along with this devil-rais- 
ing business there have now been started and con- 
firmed purgatory, masses for the dead, and worship 
of all saints, pilgrimages, monasteries, churches and 
chapels. Yes, many have also prophesied about 
future times, as Iviechtenberg and others; but all 
this has been done by the devil, that he might en- 
dorse his abominable lies, and bewitch the people 
and hold them captive in error, so that no one 
could escape him. 

For that is a small matter for the devil, to let 
himself be driven out, if he chooses, by a bad 
fellow, and yet remain unexorcised; for by that 
very performance he more completely possesses 
and ensnares the people with the shameful decep- 
tion. Thus he can also guess at what is future, as 
a shrewd, experienced spirit; although he com- 
monly mocks the people with his prophesying, and 
juggles in such a way that one may interpret him 
in various ways, and however it turns out he still 
has hit it; as he used to do in ancient times by 
his heathenish priests. Thus the people then are 
infatuated and bounce in: O here God lives! Here 
one sees and touches the miracles and signs! They 
cannot reckon that the devil does it only for the 
purpose of deceiving and misleading the people ; 
and they do not think, the fools, that Christ 


clearly foretold all this and faithfully warned us 
against it through himself and his apostles. But 
it had to be so, and we have been rightly served, 
because we despised the word of God and did not 
take into the account that we must lose Christ and 
accept the miracles of the devil; and it was just 
real sport for the devil, whereby he ruled with full 
power in Christendom, as he sought to do. 

Since we have now seen this, and alas quite too 
often experienced how great harm the devil has 
done through these lying spirits and false miracles, 
we should be made wise and not (as those before us 
have done) let the word of Christ lie and be spoken 
in vain, so that it may not go with us as it went 
with them. For it is a sermon, yes a prediction, 
written as a warning; but alas too late for those 
who lived before us; but early enough for us, if we 
will only heed it, so that we do not care how they 
boast of the signs and wonders that Mary and 
other saints have done, and dress them up beauti- 
fully wherewith to lead us away from the word; 
but to be so wise, since we hear this warning that 
these false miracles must occur, as not to believe in 
any mere miracles. 

For he faithfully and earnestly warned, as he 
was speaking of these wonderful works. Matt, 
xxiv. 25: *' Behold, I have told you before;" as 
though he would say: Beware, and heed my warn- 
ing; otherwise you will surely be misled. For you 


have my word, so that you know what is the will 
of my Father. Contrast these two together. Here 
you have my doctrine, which shows you how you 
ought to live and act: there you see the miracles 
that stand opposed to this doctrine, so that you can 
decide thus: Since I see there such excellent signs, 
and on the contrary have here the doctrine and the 
warning besides, I will first see to it what the mir- 
acles tend to, and will carefully examine whether 
they really serve to strengthen my faith in the 
word, namely, that Christ died for me, that I 
through him may before God become pious and be 
saved; then, that I may pursue my calling and 
faithfully attend to the same. Thus I learn the 
opposite fact, that they want thereby to strengthen 
and confirm their silly notion, and teach thus: Run 
to this or that saint, creep into a hood, etc., there 
so many miracles and wonders daily occur, there is 
such a holy order, etc. That means led away from 
Christ, from my church, pulpit, baptism and sacra- 
ment, that I should adhere to, also from my call- 
ing and the works demanded of me. 

Therefore I will not hear or know it, even though 
an angel should come from heaven and awaken the 
dead before my eyes. For Christ has taught and 
warned me thus: Cling to my word, pulpit and 
sacrament; where this is, there you will find me. 
Abide there, you need not go or seek any farther; 
I will not come any nearer to you than where my 


gospel, baptism, office of the ministry is, through 
which I enter your heart and speak with you. 
Also, that he says: Be thou father or mother, 
prince, master, subject, and obedient, etc., and 
abide in thy calling, there thou hearest him speak, 
and present in person. Why do you then still run, 
as a senseless man, to stock and stone, where no 
word of God is preached, and yet through the 
devil's miracles open wide your eyes as though 
Christ would be there where his word is not! 

See, thus they should have done against the 
papists, who come crowding with their custom, fa- 
thers, councils, and so many wonders and miracles, 
by which they want to have their matter confirmed, 
and should have answered only in a few words: 
Well, let us hold the two in contrast ; there I have 
the word of Christ, of that I am sure, and it is most 
powerfully confirmed, through all the world: and 
you show me on the other hand your doctrine and 
miracles, that lead one to rosaries, pilgrimages, 
worship of saints, masses, monkery and other pecu- 
liar self-chosen works. There is nothing about 
Christ, nor faith, baptism, sacrament, obedience, 
and good works which I am to do in my calling 
towards my neighbor, as Christ teaches me; but 
just the contrary. Therefore they cannot be true 
miracles, but both the doctrine and the miracles are 
a delusion of the devil. 

Thus we could readily know and judge all false 


miracles, and say: Miracles hither, miracles thither, 
I do not care for them, though you were to raise 
the dead before my eyes. For all that cau be de- 
ceptive: but God's word does not deceive me. For 
the devil can readily befool and bewitch the people, 
so that he holds a man awhile as dead and then 
lets him come to himself again, as if he were 
awaked from the dead; or he can ruin one's eye or 
other member and then restore it again, so that one 
should think it was done by a miracle. Thus God 
decrees also that truly rial miracles may occur as 
the punishment of those who pay no regard to the 
truth, as St. Paul says, and as a warning to others. 
For there is such excessive disregard for his word 
and such ingratitude, that no wrath is sufficient to 
punish it; as will be the case with us again, if the 
world stands long, who have sinned to such a de- 
gree that it must become much worse with all 
kinds of error and wonders. 

For since the world absolutely will despise the 
word, and not hear it, and gape after something 
else: he will send it enough so that it may be led 
astray into the depth of all error; as was hitherto the 
case, when in all churches, monasteries, schools, 
nothing else was preached and taught, all books 
were stuffed full of these lying miracles, and 
with no other reason than that these miracles had 
occurred; as if it had not been sufficiently pre- 
dicted that this should happen, and the people be 


deceived thereby, so that even the elect should 
hardh' be saved from the error; and those are 
rightly served who so easily let themselves be mis- 
led and will not heed this warning-. For he gave 
the word, how we are to believe and live, and be- 
sides confirmed it with miracles enongh. He means 
to let that be enough, and stop there, and do noth- 
ing else; but they want to get up a different new 
doctrine and better callings against God's word and 
the true miracles. 

Therefore Christ no\v gays : I will pay no regard 
to it, although they boast: Lord, have we not in 
thy name done many wonderful works; but will 
pronounce this sentence upon them: I never knew 
you; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, etc. 
How so, dear Lord? Are not the signs and won- 
ders here, so that we cannot deny it? Yes,, (he will 
say,) why then have you neglected my word, con- 
firmed by my miracles, and have gotten up some- 
thing else of which I know nothing, and have con- 
trolled the world according to your notion and 
have followed that? Because then you have de- 
spised my word, and have not done my Father's 
will, I will also not know you or have any mercy. 
They are mistaken about this now upon earth, sup- 
posing that they shall be the nearest to God; but 
they will find it out all too suddenly. This is now 
the right meaning of this text, so that he is speak- 
ing of false miracles, which the false teachers per- 


form to establish their doctrine, whom he will not 
know, neither with their miracles nor prophesying, 

But in regard to this it is now earnestly asserted 
(and I do not know if this is the proper place for 
the discussion of it) that God sometimes allows real 
miracles to be performed by bad people, which God 
does through them; as Caiaphas, the high priest, 
prophesied, John xi, 50, and Balaam, Num. xxiv. 
17, who uttered the most beautiful announcement 
concerning Christ, as Moses himself says, that 
the Holy Ghost entered into him, and he had to 
prophesy against his will, as also Caiaphas; and it 
cannot be denied that also Judas, as an apostle of 
Christ, did many miracles, as well as the other 
apostles and disciples. What shall we say to this? 
St. John himself answers, when he says concerning 
Caiaphas: Because he was high-priest that year he 
prophesied. For this can easily happen, that such 
a person, being in public office, or a ruling person, 
prophesies or works miracles and does a great deal 
of good, bringing many people to God; and yet the 
person himself may not be pious, and be going to 
the devil. Thus, a preacher is in a public calling 
and an official person, and if we look at it aright, 
such a person performs the very greatest work, 
miracle and wonder that happens on earth. For 
through his office, word and sacrament that he 
applies to you he brings you to faith, saves you 


from the devil's power and from eternal death, and 
leads you to heaven and eternal life; which is far 
above all external signs and wonders, and yet he 
may still be himself an unbelieving, bad man. 

Therefore in this matter we must always look to 
the word of God, and judge according to that, not 
according to the person. Now you have heard 
above concerning those miracles that are per- 
formed in order to confirm something else than 
God's word, of which there is nothing in the Scrip- 
tures. But here are those miracles that relate to 
something that God has spoken and confirmed. 
Thus, the prophecy of the high-priest Caiaphas 
announced that Christ with his death should re- 
deem the world, etc. This was a true, precious 
prophecy, although his motive was poisonous and 
evil. Thus also the prophet Balaam, although he 
was a villain, yet he predicts truly, as a prophet, 
concerning God's people and Christ, and God 
speaks through him. If now a preacher properly 
administers his office, and in virtue of it performs 
miracles, we should hear him. But if he wanted 
to get off the track and go another way, to start 
something else, aside from his office, he would no 
longer be a true but a false prophet. Thus, also, 
if the apostle Judas preached and performed mir- 
acles, who belonged to the devil, as Christ says, 
it was done by virtue of the apostolic office, to 
establish Christ, so that thereby the people might 
believe on him. 


In accordance with this, judge concerning all who 
hold an office in Christendom. For they are not 
all Christians, or pious people, who are in office 
and preach. God does not ask about that; but let 
the person be as it may, the office is still right and 
good, and does not belong to man, but to God him- 
self. Thus, Caiaphas prophesies not as Caiaphas, 
a murderer and bad fellow, but as a high-priest. 
So, the pastor or preacher baptizes and brings to 
eternal life, not as J\Ir. John Pommer, but as a 
pastor. For to honor and confirm the office God 
causes this to be done. Since now Judas is in the 
right public office, which Christ has appointed, 
therefore the office is honored in him, not the 

For this is also the case in worldly affairs, as 
Solomon says in Prov. xvi. 10: Divinatio in labiis 
regis^ a divine sentence is in the lips of the king; 
that is, everything that the authorities order, is 
right, and God- confirms it. Therefore if they con- 
demn criminals and punish them officially, that is 
God's judgment, which he utters in heaven above 
and will have executed, although it otherwise, aside 
from the office, is forbidden. Thus the Scriptures 
make all who are in the sacred' office prophets or 
predictors, although personally they are often vil- 
lains and tyrants; as Solomon again says, viii. 15: 
"By me kings reign;" that is, their law and sen- 
tence is my law and sentence, and all that they do 


officially, if they rightly rule; and yet nevertheless 
for the most part in the world there are great 
scoundrels among them, that boldly make a bad 
use of their position and power; yet, if they remain 
in their office, and do what right demands, it is all 
God's business. It is just the same, to use an 
humble comparison, as when a prince or lord gives 
orders to a servant, or sends forth his ambassadors, 
that one hears and honors them, although they are 
bad fellows: not for their own sake, but for the 
sake of their lord, whose office and command they 
bring with them, etc. 

Since now God does this in secular affairs, much 
more will he insist upon it in spiritual affairs, so 
that his office and service shall be efficient and 
effective. Therefore, as was said, it is a purely 
miraculous event, if a pastor preaches or baptizes, 
in so far as he properly administers the gospel and 
baptism, whether he be pious or wicked; and if he 
himself, as not being a Christian, does not have 
the treasure, yet he receives it who accepts the 
word and believes. If now these miracles and 
wonders are effected through the ministerial office, 
so that thereby souls are redeemed from sin, death 
and the devil; how much more can it be done with 
small, external miracles, in corporeal matters, that 
do not affect the soul? 

Therefore we must here also carefully distin- 
guish the two things, office and person, so that we 


do not reject the office for the sake of the person; 
as commonly happens, if one be pious, there are 
twenty of them wicked: but we must inquire care- 
fully whether the office and the miracle tend and 
serve to praise and confirm the doctrine, so that 
one may believe on Christ, and whether they har- 
monize with what he has spoken, commanded and 
established. If yon see that, then say: This ser- 
mon is right, though the person may be of no 
account. The miracle I will accept, but as to the 
person I will not ask, etc. If that be not the case, 
thou must not accept or believe it, the miracle 
may be ever so great, and the person ever so holy 
and excellent. Bnt here are also many bishops, 
preachers, and those in other offices, who suppose 
that God must regard their persons, and they are 
thereby misled, as I said above. Therefore it will 
be of no avail for them to boast at the last day 
and say: Lord, we have surely in thy name done 
wonderful works. For God did not bestow this 
upon them for the sake of their person, but of their 
office, and he did the works not for their sake per- 
sonally, but in view of their office, to confirm it. 
This is now said concerning public officials, by 
whom signs and wonders are performed, some of 
whom are pious, and some wicked, which neither 
detracts from the office nor adds to it. 

But what do you say about those who perform 
miracles and prophesy and are yet not in office? as 

480 luthhr's commentary on the 

we read in Luke ix. of some who performed mir- 
acles and yet were not Christ's disciples, so that 
the apostles told Christ of it and said: Master, we 
saw one who drove out devils in thy name, and we 
rebuked him; for he did not follow thee. But he 
answered: Do not hinder him; for he who is not 
against us is for us, etc. Now that was a single 
person to whom the office had not been entrusted 
by Christ, and yet he says they should not hin- 
der him, and he adds the reason, Mark ix. 39: 
There is no man which shall do a miracle in my 
name that can lightly speak evil of me. Answer: 
That is true, as I have said, that God does not 
allow miracles to be done by bad men, unless they 
are in public oflfice; because God does not give 
miracles on account of their person, but of their 
office. But if real miracles are done by a single 
person, that person must certainly be pious, as 
some are, who have special revelations, through 
dreams, visions, etc. ; but these miracles must have 
the tendency to praise and further Christ and the 

Thus you have two kinds of miracles that are 
good and honest, first, those which are done by 
pious persons who are Christians; then also those 
done by wicked persons, who yet are in office and 
teach correctly; but that we are always to judge 
according to this sure test, which is to be applied 
to all kinds of persons, whether pious or impious, 


in office or out of office, whether the miracles have 
the tendency to praise Christ and to strengthen 
your faith. But if )'ou discover that they are 
pointing you in a different direction, as to go upon 
pilgrimages, pray to saints, deliver souls from pur- 
gatory, and in short, to rely upon your works and 
establish a righteousness of your own; then say: 
If you would perform all miracles for me, so that I 
could see and make sure of them, I would still not 
believe you; for Christ has sufficiently warned me 
against that. 

This rule God himself stated through Moses in 
Dent, xiii.' 1-3: "If there arise among you a 
prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a 
sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come 
to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying: Let 
us go after other gods which thou hast not known, 
and let us serve them ; thou shalt not hearken unto 
the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of 
dreams, etc." There he stated also the caiLsam 
/inalem. bv which one can recog-nize them and 
proceed aright. If they try to persuade you to 
establish a different divine worship, that is, not to 
adhere to the one, pure doctrine, but to begin 
something else alongside of it, then we are not to 
believe, although it snows miracles. And he ex- 
plains it further, and says: For the I^ord your 
God proveth you to know whether you love the 
Lord your God with all your heart and with all 


your soul. As though he were to say: He wants 
to test you, how firmly you hold to Ihe doctrine 
that has already been established and is in vogue. 

In short, our orders are to accept no wonders or 
miracles, however great and numerous they may 
be, that are opposed to the well-established doc- 
trine. For we have the command of God, who 
has given it from heaven: Hear ye him, Christ 
alone ye are to hear. Besides we have also this 
warning, that false prophets shall come, and per- 
form great miracles, but all of them lead the wrong 
way, from Christ to something else. Therefore 
there is no other way to avoid this than to be well- 
grounded in the doctrine and keep it constantly in 
view; thus we can properly judge everything ac- 
cording to that, whether it is taught by the gospel 
or your faith, which you repeat every day, which 
declares: I believe on Christ alone, who died for 
me, etc. , or whatever else it is. 

Now, we have been warned enough, whoever is 
willinof to heed it. But it avails nevertheless little 
with the great mass, as it availed but little hereto- 
fore; and I verily believe that if some one would 
arise here to-day and perform only one miracle, 
great crowds would fall in with it. For that is the 
way of the senseless crowd, when one puts forth 
something new before it and makes it stare, that it 
drops everything, word and doctrine, and gapes 
after that, although one should yell himself to 


death against it: as it has allowed itself heretofore 
to be fooled and led by the nose with coarse, palp- 
able lies and unblushing fraud, whenever a villain 
has turned up and lied about a new^ relic, new pil- 
grimages, etc., and it has run after these things 
like crazy. This conies of the shameful overcuri- 
ousness and surfeit of our flesh and blood, along 
with the very devil himself, so that always the 
signs and wonders, especially those that are false, 
prove more attractive than even the genuine. For, 
that Christ and his apostles and others have per- 
formed miracles, that one does not see and regard; 
but that any one drives out a devil, that beats all. 
Well, he who will not take warning, and wants to 
be deceived, dare not lay the blame upon us. 

V. 24-27. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, 
a^iddoeth them, I will liken hiinunto a wise niati, which built his 
house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came; 
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, 
for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth 
these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto 
a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the 
raifi descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and 
beat tcpon that house; and it fell: and great teas the fall of it. 

That is the conclusion and the end of it, upon 
which it all depends: He who not only hears this 
sermon with his ears, but who does it, he is a wise 
man. For the doctrine is indeed good and excel- 
lent, but it is not preached in order to be heard, 
but that it be applied to practical life; and especi- 


ally because we are always exposed to danger from 
false prophets and wonder-workers, so that we may 
reflect, and accept this doctrine and warning;, since 
we hear and have it, both teachers and scholars. 
For if one wants to postpone it till the hour comes 
when death and the devil come storming- in upon 
us, with his rain-storms and tempests, then it has 
been put off too long. Therefore we are not bidden 
only to hear and become able, but to do and strug- 

Those also hear it who say: Lord, Lord, as 
heretofore the pope, bishops, and kings and all the 
world have heard, and the mass-priests and monks 
have daily read, sung, and intoned: but none has 
done it or preached it; but they have clung to 
their false worship and false miracles, and have 
encouraged others to do the same. Therefore, 
although they have heard much, and have also 
performed miracles, yet they have not done the 
will of God. For they do not continue in the doc- 
trine of Christ and real good works, but they fall 
back upon their own works, done without faith 
and love, so that among all the monks and priests 
not a single genuine work is to be found. For 
they do none of them to serve or help their neigh- 
bor, b::t seek only their own thereby, and thus are 
entirely without faith, love and patience. There- 
fore among them nothing at all is done, as Christ 
says, although they hear the true doctrine; for it 


takes no hold upon them, for their hearts are 
nothing but mere sand. 

But they nevertheless (as was said) have much 
to do and to teach, even more than the true 
preachers and Christians; by this too they lead the 
people astray. For a hermit or a Carthusian seems 
to be doing much more, with his strict spiritual 
living and doing, than St. Paul or any true preacher 
or Christian. For the external masks of special 
works and divine worship make people stare so 
that an ordinary Christian life makes no show in 
comparison. Therefore' they are not lacking in 
doing, teaching and believing. But here is the 
difference (says Christ,) that they hear my teaching 
indeed, but they will do nothing except what they 
have themselves invented; on that track I cannot 
keep them, so that they would do what I teach 
them. If we Christians were as diligent in our 
works as they are in theirs, we should be alto- 
gether saints. But neither side amounts to any- 
thing. We are lazy and idle; they do quite too 
much, but of real works they do none at all. Thus 
we still have the advantage (thank God!) that we 
have begun a little to believe and love, and are 
upon the right track, however slowly we move. 

He closes this now with a beautiful comparison, 
how it will finally be with both of these: He who 
hears and practices my teaching is an excellent, 
prudent builder, who does not build upon the 

486 luthkr's commentary on the 

sand, but seeks first a strong rock as a foundation. 
If he has this, he builds upon it, so that it may 
stand firm and endure. When then storms and 
showers come, around and above, and waters un- 
derneath (the wind meanwhile howling) seek to 
soften the earth and overturn the building, it 
stands against these immovable, as if to defy them 
all. But he who places his building upon sand 
will find that it stands only till the waters wash it 
away and the wind overturns it, so that it lies 
upon a heap or falls to pieces of itself. 

With this comparison he nieans to warn us faith- 
fully, so that we take good care to hold firmly to 
his doctrine and not let Christ be taken out of our 
heart as our only sure foundation and corner- 
stone of our salvation, as St. Paul and St. Peter 
(from Isaiah xxviii.) call him. If we stand founded 
and built upon that, we will surely abide unmoved, 
and can let the world and the devil, with all false 
teachers and captious sp)irits pour down upon us 
hail and slags, and beset and assail us with all 
sorts of danger and trouble. 

This confidence and security those miserable, 
foolish people cannot have. For they are not stand- 
ing upon the rock, that is, upon the doctrine con- 
cerning Christ, but upon the drifting sand of their 
own imaginings and dreams. Therefore, when 
trouble comes, so that they have to struggle with 
the devil and death, they feel how they have rested 


their confidence upon loose sand, and their callings 
and works cannot endure; as I have myself seen and 
known many of these poor people, especially in 
monasteries, who have deeply felt this, so that at 
last they became crazy through fright and tim- 
idity of conscience, and some continued in perpet- 
ual despair! The reason was, that they had built 
upon their own doing, devotion and good inten- 
tions, and knew nothing about Christ. That was 
just the kind of a structure for the devil, that 
he could joyfully overturn and throw all into a 

St. Bernard himself had also to feel and ac- 
knowledge this, who had nevertheless led a very 
strict life, with praying, fasting, bodily tnortifica- 
tion, etc., so that he was deficient in no respect, 
and served as an example for all others, so that I 
know of no one among the monks who wrote or 
lived better than he. Yet, when he came to die, 
he had himself to pronounce this judgment upon 
his entire holy life: O, I lived a damnable 
life, and spent my life shamefully! Ah, how so, 
dear St. Bernard? You were surely a pious monk 
all your life. Is then chastity, obedience, your 
preaching, fasting, praying, not an admirable 
thing? No (says he,) it is all lost and belongs to 
the devil. There comes the wind and rain, and 
throws foundation, basis and building all into a 
heap, so that he would have had to be eternally 


damned, by his own judgment, if he had not 
turned about, and, made wiser by his loss, deserted 
monkery, seized upon another foundation and 
ching to Christ, and been kept in the faith that 
the children use in their prayers, when he said: 
"Although lam not worthy of eternal life, nor can 
attain it by my own merit, yet my Lord Christ has 
a double right to it, once as Lord and heir to it, 
inherited from eternity; secondly, attained through 
his suffering and death. The first he retains for 
himself; the other he bestows upon me," etc. 

Thus all the monks and priests, and all that 
claimed to be holy, that were ever saved, had to 
creep out of their hoods and all their works, and 
cling to Christ; although it went very hard with 
them. For it is very difficult for a man who has 
spent his whole life in this self-made holiness, and 
has depended upon it, to tear himself loose from it 
i-n an hour and cast himself upon Christ. There- 
fore he warns and exhorts us to lay hold of and 
practice his teaching whilst we have the time, 
before the last agonies overtake us. Thus our 
dear Lord has now completed this beautiful ser- 
mon. Now the evangelist states in conclusion 
how the whole world had to testify that this was a 
very different style of preaching from any they had 
heard before, and to which they had been accus- 


V. 28-29. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these 
sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught 
them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 

Thereby the evangelist shows what kind of 
preacliers and teachers the scribes had been, 
namely, that [their teaching] had been a mere 
cold, vain, idle babbling; that they had not urged or 
insisted upon God's commands with earnestness 
or energy; just as our rag-washers have hitherto 
upon the pulpit been drivelling about nothing 
else than purgatory, indulgences, hoods, rosaries, 
lighting of candles. But he took hold quite dif- 
ferently, showed what they had never heard be- 
fore, the true doctrine and life, and rebuked vices 
in such a way that they all felt that the man taught 
with authority, and everything had life and a voice, 
as if it had hands and feet, and they had to say 
that this was preaching with authority, whilst 
that of the others was vain, empty, yes a mere 
dead wish-wash. Therefore our papists now act 
shrewdly in that they are ashamed of their filthy 
rags, and keep silence [in regard to those other 
topics] and begin also to preach a little, after us 
and our books, about faith and good works ; 
although they still twist and butcher it, as not 
being really in earnest about preaching right, or 
having grace to be able to understand it. 

There remains yet at the end one question to be 
treated of, because we heard in this sermon that 


Christ insisted so strenuously upon works, when 
he says: The poor shall inherit the kingdom of 
heaven; the merciful shall obtain mercy; also, 
those shall be rewarded in heaven who suffer per- 
secution for his sake; and what is said about this 
at the end of the fifth chapter: If you love those 
who love you, what kind ©f reward shall you have? 
and in the sixth chapter concerning alms, fasting 
and praying: Thy Father which seeth in secret, 
shall reward you openl)-, etc, ; from which sayings 
the senseless, false preachers conclude that we get 
to heaven and are saved by our own working and 
doing, and thereupon they build upon this their 
endowments, monasteries, pilgrimages, masses, 

Although, however, this question is somewhat 
sharp, and belongs rather to the university, among 
the learned, than to the pulpit, before ordinary, 
simple-minded people; }-et, as it occurs so often in 
our text, we must not overlook it altogether, but 
must have something to say about it. For it is 
very necessary that every one should have some 
idea of the difference between grace and merit. 
For the two do not accord with one another. If 
one is preaching grace, he surely cannot be preach- 
ing merit; and what is grace cannot be merit, else 
grace would not be grace, says St. Paul in Rom. 
xi. 6. There is no doubt about that. Therefore, 
he who confounds these two confuses the people and 
misleads both himself and those who hear him. 


Well, we will ignore for the present the sharp 
answer, and discuss this question in the plainest 
way that we can; and in the first place we must 
distinctly remember this, that there is a great dif- 
ference between faith, or essential Christianity, 
and its fruits, as I have often said. For, according 
to the Christian name and nature one is not dif- 
ferent from another; all have at once the same 
treasure and the same kind of possessions. For 
St. Peter has no different or better baptism than. 
St. Paul, and a child born yesterday no inferior 
baptism to that of John the Baptist or St. Peter 
and all the apostles; thus they have also no other, 
better Christ than the least Christian. 

If we now look at this, there avails no merit, or 
difference. For the least Christian receives just as 
well the same body and blood of Christ in the 
sacrament, and when he hears the gospel he hears 
the \'ery same word of God that Peter and Paul 
heard and preached. Also, no saint can pray 
another or better pater nosier^ or pronounce and 
confess a creed and ten commandments different 
from those prayed daily by me and every child. 
That is now so plain that every one can easily un- 
derstand it; so that in what entitles us to be called 
Christians there is no inequality or preference of 
persons, but one is just like the other, man, woman, 
young, old, learned, unlearned, noble, ignoble, 
prince, peasant, master and servant, great and 

492 lutiiicr's commentary on the 

small saint, as there is only one kind of Christ and 
creed: just as the sun in the heavens is of one 
kind towards everybody, shines upon a peasant as 
well as upon a king-; upon a blind man as well as 
upon one who sees well; upon the sow upon the 
street as upon the most beautiful woman upon 
earth, and shines as readily upon a thorn as upon 
a rose, upon filth as upon purple, and it is the 
very same sun that shines upon the poorest beggar 
as upon the greatest king or emperor. 

But thereafter, if we begin to consider external 
matters and what we are doing, as that I, who am 
a Christian and baptized, am in addition to this 
also a preacher, whilst I could be a Christian with- 
out that; then the ineqiiality begins and it extends 
to the various distinctions among Christians; not 
as Christians, or as to the nature of Christianity, 
but as to its fruits. Thus I am a preacher, that is, 
such a Christian who is to present the word to the 
people, to comfort the distressed, to instruct the 
erring and ignorant, etc. And this one is the head 
of a family or a mechanic, who is to rule his house, 
attend to his business, provide for his wife and 
children. There is a man, different from you and 
me; yet I must say: He is just as much a Chris- 
tian, and gets as much from baptism, the grace of 
God and eternal life, as I and all the others, and is 
no less in Christ than I; and there is here no dif- 
ference between women or men, etc. Yet the 


woman's work is different from that of the man, 
that of a servant from that of his master, that of a 
preacher from that of a civilian; likewise, a child 
compared with its father, a scholar or disciple with 
the teacher, each of them liaving his own work 
or fruits; and thus everywhere ther^ is a differ- 
ence in external circumstances, whilst yet all 
are at the same time Christians and one accord- 
ing to the inner life. For there is no more than 
one Christianity and only one natural condition of 
all men. That we see too in the heavens (says St. 
Paul, I Cor. XV. 41,) that there are so many kinds 
of stars, and differing from one another, one great, 
the other small, one shining clearly, the other 
dimly, and yet there is but one sun in our heavens. 
In this respect they are all alike, that all stand in 
one heavens and have one kind of sun; and yet 
they are unlike as to size and brightness. Thus it 
is also upon earth (says St. Paul, further,) not all 
flesh is the same flesh, but there is one flesh of 
man, another of beasts, another of birds. In the 
fact that they are flesh they are all alike, and one 
has his members, head, heart, stomach, etc., just 
as well as the others; yet there is a great difference 
between men, beasts, birds and fishes. 

If now you wish to speak about a Christian, or 
to depict him, you must paint him so that he is in 
no wise different from others, and one must be in 
all respects as the others. For you must not de- 


scribe him as a man or woman, a preacher or hay- 
man, prince or beggar, mechanic or Carthnsian 
monk. For these distinctions have nothing to do 
with him; bnt so far as his essential character is 
concerned, he is jnst as good and holy as Peter and 
Paul, and no one is any more and better than he. 
For if St. Peter were better than I, as to the true 
essentials of Christianity, he would have to have 
a better Christ, gospel and baptism than I. But 
because the great treasure that we have is alto- 
gether one and the same, we must in this respect be 
all alike and no one must be raised above the other. 
It may well be that one does more and greater 
things than another, as, that St. Peter raised per- 
sons from the dead. But thereby, that he does 
miracles which I do not, he is indeed a greater, 
brighter star than I in the heavens, but not a 
different kind of star, and he has no other heavens. 
St. Pavil did and labored more than all the other 
apostles; but he did not for this reason have a bet- 
ter apostolic office, nor did he preach a different 
and better Christ. 

This is what we now say about merit. If we are 
speaking about that which concerns the essence of 
Christianity [or the Christian life] according to 
which we are all equal, how we become pious be- 
fore God, and attain forgiveness of sins and eternal 
life, here all our merit is totally excluded, and we 
must neither hear nor know anything about it 


For you have not at all deserved the g-ospel, or 
Christ, or baptism, but it is a pure grant, freely 
given; so that our sins are gratuitously forgiven, 
we become God's children and are assigned to 
heaven without our doing anything towards it. 

And here we contend against the abomination 
of the sophists who so greatly exalt our works, 
that we thereby secure a gracious God, and merit 
heaven. Yes, they venture shamelessly to say 
that a man even in mortal sins can do so much of 
his own accord, and perform such acts of devotion 
or accomplish such good works that he may thereby 
allay and propitiate the wrath of God. That means 
hurling the roof to the ground, quite upsetting the 
foundation, building salvation upon nothing but 
water, driving Christ entirely from his throne and 
setting up our works instead. For it must follow 
from that, that we have no need at all of baptism, 
of Christ, or gospel, or faith, because even when 
in mortal sin I find so much virtue and power in 
me that I can extricate myself by my own works 
and merit forgiveness of the same and eternal life. 
From this you see that God is slandered and blas- 
phemed by all that they drivel about merit, on the 
subject about which we are now disputing, how 
and whereby we are to attain to the grace of God 
and eternal life. Yet they are not satisfied with 
teaching this shameful blasphemy of God; but they 
are actually fighting for it and denouncing lis as 
heretics on account of it. 

496 Luther's commentary ox the 

This every one can now readily understand, that 
one of these two must be false: either that we can- 
not by our doing merit grace, or Christ with his 
baptism must be of no account and nothing; and 
Christ must have acted like a fool, to let himself 
be martyred and shed his blood so dearly, and to 
have undergone so much, in order to acquire and 
bestow upon us what was not at all necessary and 
wliat" we already have by ourselves. Therefore, 
although they revile us as heretics on this account, 
that we do not agree with them about this merit 
of works, we will gladly submit to their calling us 
heretics and leave the matter in the hands of God 
our judge; but only the more firmly resist them 
and reply to them that they are not heretics, but 
the very worst blasphemers of God that the sun ever 
shone upon, who most shamefully deny and curse 
Christ, as Peter prophesied about them, and as the 
epistle to the Hebrews says, they smite Christ on 
the mouth and trample him under foot, with his 
baptism, sacrament and entire gospel, and what 
God has given us through him. 

And I would really like to hear what they could 
say to it, the miserable people: If they assert that 
we by our works can begin by securing grace, and 
when this is done, and so much is merited, that 
we, over and above the first grace (as they call 
it), merit in addition the kingdom of heaven and 
eternal salvation; what does one then merit by the 


other subsequent works? For I will suppose that a 
papist has done his mass or other work in grace, 
and has thereby merited the kingdom of heaven, 
as such an excellent work that is worthy of 
eternal life, wliich they call meriticiii de condigno ; 
what will he then merit by the works and masses 
that he does next day and afterwards in the same 
grace? Then they begin, (as they do not know 
what else to say,) and make esseiitiale and acci- 
dentale premium^ and say: These following works 
enable one to merit something additional, as a 
little gift into the bargain, which God gives to us 
over and above eternal life. Is this true? then I 
am to understand that the first works are the best, 
but the others are not so good. Otherwise they 
must merit just the same; yet commonly the fol- 
lowing works are accustomed to be better, because 
they are now more diligently practiced. 

Since now the last works do not merit the king- 
dom of heaven, the first must also not merit it; 
or, if they are equally good, and every work can 
merit this, then God must build as many heavens 
as the good works that are done; and where would 
our Lord God at last get so many heavens as to 
pay for every good work? Those are really smart 
people, that can measure it off so smoothly and 
accurately. But what shall we say? All that they 
say is nothing but lies and deception, for there is 
not a word of it true; first, that any one can merit 


grace by any work of his own, much less if one is 
lying in mortal sin; and then, although a man 
were in grace b)' works (as they say), that these 
works, done in grace, should be so precious as to 
merit the kingdom of heaven. For there stands 
Christ and asserts the contrary with clear, plain 
words. Luke xvii. 10: "When ye shall have 
done all those things which are commanded you, 
say. We are unprofitable servants." 

Therefore we ought to hold fast to our doctrine, 
so that we never allow any work to put in a claim 
for securing the favor and grace of God, delivering 
from sin and entitling to heaven. For this, in 
short, my merit is to be nothing; and if one should 
want to use it in that way, I must trample it under 
foot, and damn it to the devil himself in hell, as 
something that would hinder my faith and lead me 
to deny Christ. For here the truth stands, that 
God has bestowed all this gratuitously, out of pure 
grace, in that he sends his Son and lets him die for 
me, and announce and give this to me, command- 
ing me only to believe this and be baptzied in it. 
My works have nothing to do with this, but it is a 
pure gift, granted from heaven and brought to me 
by Christ. Therefore let all merit in this matter 
be entirely thrown away, and let us conclude that 
one cannot secure grace and the forgiveness of sin 
in any other way, manner or measure than by the 
word of God concerninof Christ, and receivinof it bv 


faith. And that God may hear us, why should we 
boast of our merit, since they themselves and all 
the saints must daily pray, in the Lord's prayer, as 
long as we live: Forgive us our debts, etc.? And 
the desperate saints dare unblushingly to say that 
a man, though lying in mortal sin, can prepare 
himself for grace and afterwards also merit ever- 
lasting life. 

But how do you account for it that there are so 
many passages concerning merit and reward? To 
this we reply now, for the benefit of the simple- 
minded, that these are merely for a consolation to 
Christians. For if you now have become a Chris- 
tian, and have a gracious God and forgiveness of 
sins, both of those past and of those that you are 
daily committing [I say to you], that you must do 
and suffer much on account of your faith and your 
baptism. For the devil himself, together with the 
world and the flesh, will besiege you and on every 
hand torment you, as has been abundantly shown 
in these three chapters, so that you may feel as if 
the world was too narrow for you. Now if [our 
Saviour] would allow us to be thus perplexed, 
without word or consolation, we should be led to 
despair and to say: Who is willing to be a Chris- 
tian, preach, or do good works? He sees surely 
how it goes with them, and the world tramples 
upon them, reviles and abuses them, treats them 
cunningly and wickedly, and finally robs them of 

500 Luther's commentary on the 

honor, propert}- and life itself; and he [my Saviour] 
calls me nothing else than poor, distressed, hungry, 
soft-hearted, peaceable, afflicted and persecuted: 
is it always to be so, and never different? 

Then he must talk out, encourage and comfort, 
and say: You are now in grace and the children 
of God ; although you must now suffer for that in 
the world, do not be alarmed at that, but hold on, 
and do not let yourselves be made weary or weak 
whatever you may see, but let every one do just 
what he should. If he suffers on tJiat account, it 
will not harm him, and he may know that the 
kingdom of heaven is his, and he shall be richly 
repaid. Ah, how paid? Why we have it already, 
through Christ, without and in advance of all our 
doing. Thus, as St. Paul says, that God will 
make a great, bright star out of you, and grant 
you a special gift, even in this life. For a Chris- 
tian can even here upon earth accomplish so much 
with God through his prayers and works, that he 
may spare an entire land, prevent wars, famines, 
pestilence, etc. ; not that the work on account 
of its worthiness is so valuable, but for this reason, 
that he has promised it, for our invigoration and 
consolation, so that we are not to think that our 
works, plagues and misery are lost and forgotten. 

Now there is here no merit, by which we are to 
earn grace, or our baptism, Christ and heaven (of 
which they speak when they are talking of merit); 


but it all refers to the fruits of Christianity. For 
Christ says also (as we have seen) in this sermon 
nothing about how we become Christians, but only 
about the works and fruits which no one can do 
unless he is already a Christian, and in grace; as 
the words prove, that they must endure poverty, 
misery, persecution, just for the reason that they 
are Christians and have the kingdom of heaven, 
etc. If we now speak of those fruits that follow 
being in grace and having forgiveness of sin, we 
may consent to speak of a merit and reward; but 
we object to calling those works of ours the chief 
good, which must be there beforehand, and with- 
out which they could not be performed, or be 
pleasing to God. If now we only insist upon this 
point, that there is no merit but only pure grace 
[by which we are saved], then we will not object to 
giving the name to the fruits that follow; but, so 
that one does not falsely pervert those passages, 
and refer them contrary to the Scriptures to our 
meriting grace, but interprets them properly, as 
intended, to comfort Christians, especially amid 
suffering and hostility, when one feels and it seems 
as if our life, suffering and doing, were in vain and 
accomplishing nothing; as the Scriptures every- 
where console, where they exhort to perseverance 
in good works, as in Jer. xxxi. 16: Est merces 
operi tuo^ thy work is not in vain; also, St. Paul, 
in I Cor, xv, 58: Labor vester nojt est inanzs in 


domino^ your labor is not in vain in the Lord. For, 
if we had not this consolation, we could not endure 
this wretchedness, persecution and misery, that we 
should do so much good, and let our teaching and 
preaching be rewarded with sheer ingratitude and 
disgrace; and would have at last to cease from 
doing and suffering what was plainly our duty. 
But God means to arouse and confirm us by this 
beautiful promise, so that we pay no regard to the 
ingratitude, hatred, envy and contempt of the 
world, but regard him who says: "I am thy God. 
If the world will not thank you, and robs you of 
honor, property, and even of life on that account, 
then cling to me and take comfort from this, that I 
have a heaven, and so much in it that I can easily 
recompense you, and ten times more than can now 
be taken from you;" so that we can have this answer 
for the world: Well, if it will not treat us with 
favor, let it go along with its favor, and all that it 
has; I did not begin anything on its account, and 
I will henceforth neither do nor omit anything on 
its account. But I will do and suffer everything 
for his sake who gives me such rich promises, and 
says: Although you have already, aside from this, 
all treasure in heaven through Christ, and more 
than enough; yet I will give you still more, as 
additional, so that you shall have the kingdom of 
heaven fully revealed, and you shall visibly behold 
Christ in everlasting glory and joy, (whom you 


now have in faith), so much the more as you now 
suffer and labor. 

Here are applicable the charming passages and 
exhortations, such as Heb. x. 35 : Magnum habetis 
retnujterationem^ etc. Cast not away, therefore, 
your confidence, which hath great recompense of 
reward; and Christ, in Matt. xix. 29: "And every 
one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sis- 
ters, or father or mother, or wife, or children, or 
lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred- 
fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Thus he 
speaks also here: Merces vestra magna est in coelo^ 
you shall be well rewarded in heaven; by which 
he shows that they already have the kingdom of 
heaven, and yet shall have it so much the more 
glorious when it now is revealed. 

See, if we turn these passages in this direction, 
they are rightly used, so that they have no refer- 
ence to our confiding in our works contrary to 
faith, but to the consolation of Christians and be- 
lievers; and if the sophists had aimed their talk 
about merit in this directiou, it would have been 
all right. But they based their own work-holiness 
and monkery upon it, so that God should thereby 
regard them as peculiar saints, and sell heaven for 
these, and should give them the highest seats, as 
those with whom common Christians were not to 
be compared; and they acted indeed not unwisely 
in the matter, for that did not bring poverty, mis- 


ery, mourning, persecution, but money, property, 
honor, and no order was established for the pur- 
pose of using in it the word of Christ, sacrament, 
faith, love and patience; but only with their hoods, 
and rigid, peculiar mode of living, they want to 
be highly esteemed and exalted before God, as 
those who need no Christ or faith. 

In this way now we admit that Christians have 
merit and reward with God; not for the purpose 
of becoming children of God and heirs of eternal 
life; but for the consolation of believers who 
already have this, that they may know that he 
will not let that be unrewarded that they suffer 
here for Christ's sake; but, if they suffer and labor 
much, then he will specially adorn them at the 
last day, more and more gloriously than others, as 
stars especially great in comparison with others. 
Thus St. Paul will shine forth bright and clear 
•above others most splendidly. That does not mean 
forgiveness of sins, or meriting heaven, but com- 
pensation for suffering with so much the greater 

But we will not suffer the matter to stand where 
they put it; for that is to slander and blaspheme 
Christ, God and the Holy Ghost, and everything 
that God has given us by them, and we would rather 
be denounced as heretics and scoundrels, and be 
burned with fire, than give up or deny this treasure: 
but we will also insist upon this consolation even 


if we must suffer for it all trouble, shame and 
persecution. For this will be the result at any 
rate. The devil will not agree to this, or accord 
with us; but means to maintain the pope's doc- 
trine and bring us to believe as he believes; and 
as he sees that we won't do it, he lays himself out 
against us with all his might. For he knows very 
well, if this point is settled, that Christ and the 
forgiveness of sins are a perfectly free gift, that 
any one can count it off on his fingers and con- 
clude that the papacy with its masses, monkery, 
purgatory, worship of saints, etc., must be nothing, 
and all will fall to pieces of its own accord. 

Now learn to answer in this way about those 
passages that refer to merit and reward. I hear 
indeed that Christ says: Blessed are the poor, for 
they shall have the kingdom of heaven; and. 
Blessed are ye when ye suffer persecution for my 
sake; for great is your reward in heaven, etc. But 
he does not thereby teach me to rest my salvation 
upon that, but gives me a promise that is to be a 
comfort to me in my sufferings and in my Chris- 
tian life. You must not confound these things for 
me and mix the two together, nor make my merit 
out of that which God gives me in Christ through 
baptism and the gospel. For we are not here told 
that we can merit that, and that we need no Christ 
and baptism for it; but that those who are Christ's 
disciples, to whom he has here preached, and who 

5o6 Luther's commentary. 

must nnderoo all manner of suffering for liis sake, 
may know how they are to comfort themselves, be- 
cause they have a hard time of it on earth, namely, 
that they because of this shall have everything so 
much the more abundantly in heaven; and he who 
does and suifers the most shall be so much the 
more gloriously recompensed. 

For although (as I said) in Christ all are alike, 
and grace is bestowed equally upon all, and brings 
full salvation to every one, as the highest, most 
common possession, so that he who has Christ has 
all: yet there will be a difference in the bright- 
ness and the glory with which we shall be adorned 
and shine; just as in this life there is a difference 
in the gifts, so that one labors and suffers more 
than another; but in that life it will all be mani- 
fest, so that all the world shall see what each 
one has done, and shall have so much the greater 
glory, at which the whole heavenly host will re- 
joice. Let this be enough about that. 

God preserve us in his grace, revealed in Christ. 




BS2418 4 L97 

Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. 

Princeton Theological Seminary-Speer Library 

1 1012 00069 6726